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How 19th century's Countess Ada Lovelace is helping women in today's artificial intelligence

PUBLISHED: 17:00 24 October 2019

DeepMind scholarships for women studying artificial intelligence at Queen Mary University. Picture: QMUL

DeepMind scholarships for women studying artificial intelligence at Queen Mary University. Picture: QMUL

QMUL

Women are getting their own scholarships to study artificial intelligence at Queen Mary University, following in the footsteps of a 19th century countess who was a mathematical computing genius of her day.

Women taking up the high tech challenge to study at Queen Mary's Mile End campus. Picture: QMULWomen taking up the high tech challenge to study at Queen Mary's Mile End campus. Picture: QMUL

The high tech company DeepMind is paying to set up a scholarship programme for those wanting to graduate at the Mile End campus.

The Masters degree is supported by the Institute of Coding and backed by the government to correct "the gender imbalance" in advanced technology which is said to be under-represented by women by three-to-one.

"Queen Mary is determined to do its part to break down the barriers that discourage women from digital education," the university's programme manager Isobel Bates said.

"The scholarship programme will play a role in helping us tackle the gender imbalance by encouraging women take up the subject at graduate level."

Computing pioneer Countess Ada Lovelace born in 1815. Picture: BiographyComputing pioneer Countess Ada Lovelace born in 1815. Picture: Biography

Four scholarships are being awarded during the 2019-20 academic year. The postgraduate AI Master's Degree has been developed with employers and professional bodies to respond to Britain's digital skills gap.

The government is wants a new Industrial Master's programme for artificial intelligence to develop the next generation of experts, in partnership with universities like Queen Mary's and with major corporations.

Digital minister Matt Warman said: "We are the birthplace of artificial intelligence and home to technology pioneers like Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace. We are determined to see this continue."

He was referring to Turing the wartime code-breaker who unlocked the German enigma secrets and to Countess Lovelace, the 19th century mathematical computing innovator born in 1815 known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed Analytical Engine mechanical computer.

Sponsoring Queen Mary's artificial intelligence degree course... DeepMind's new HQ opening in 2020 near King's Cross. Picture: DeepMindSponsoring Queen Mary's artificial intelligence degree course... DeepMind's new HQ opening in 2020 near King's Cross. Picture: DeepMind

But artificial intelligence today is used to tackle crime and to cure the sick, the minister pointed out.

"It is already being used to detect fraud quicker and diagnose diseases more accurately," Mr Warman explained. "We want to explore this cutting-edge technology further."

The DeepMind techno company, which is planning to open its new high tech headquarters in the New Year, wants to help "address the gender imbalance" so that "those developing transformative technology represent the population as a whole".

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