In honor of Ada, I honor Hildegard

Cross-posted at Adaptive Path.

Today is Ada Lovelace day…a day to celebrate women in technology.

Earlier this year, I joined 1000+ people in a pledge sponsored by Suw Charman-Anderson: “I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.

I’m writing my Ada Day post listening to a CD of music written in the 11th century. More specifically liturgical music written by a mystic German nun and Abbess. It’s riveting. Over 1000 years later, the tonal transitions and Latin phrases touch a deep chord and inspire with their mesmerizing shifts up and down the musical scale.

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I’m reaching into the ‘way back machine to a time where technology was not about systems (technología, 1605 : systematic treatment of an art or craft) or machines (technology, 1859 : science of the mechanical and industrial arts) or code and bits & bytes (high technology, 1964.) I’m talking about a time when technology was truly about the roots of creativity: the Greek tékne meaning “art, skill, craft or method.”

The music I’m referring to was written by Hildegard von Bingen…a mystic, a visionary (literally) and a woman who shook the conventions of her time and society to contribute works on religion, philosophy, art and the natural world. She was a Renaissance woman a few hundred years before the Renaissance.

Hildegarde used her mental prowess to explore the natural world, to devise new systems of thinking, to publish her philosophies and learnings to share them publicly. She worked around the political structures that limited womens voices by using alternative rhetorical arts. She was able to transcend the banns on womens social participation and interpretation of scripture to share her message via preaching, letter writing, poetry, illuminated manuscripts and music.

She was the author of many works, including Physica and Causae et Curae. In these texts Hildegard describes the natural world around her, including the cosmos, animals, plants, stones, and minerals. Clearly, Hildegard was amongst the first Information Architects, or perhaps more accurately, a User Experience Designer who used illuminations, writing and music to deliver holistic, transformative experiences.

As a leader, a thinker and a maker, Hildegard qualifies as a tekne-ologist of the finest sort: a woman who saw visions of possibility and dedicated her life to making knowledge known to others, using whatever means available: speech, writing, illustration and scientific inquiry.

Hildegard, you rock.

About the pledge: Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. The pledge is an opportunity to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

Who was Ada? Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software. Learn more at


  1. Barry

    Hi Kate – just came across your entry here, and wanted to give it a big thumbs-up. Thanks for the reminder on the roots of “tech”.

    Wanted to call out a recording of von Bingen’s work, in case you haven’t heard it yet. It’s “Vision: The Music of Hildegard…”, a 1994 release that shows how amazing her music was – eight centuries later, her melodies can be combined with modern rhythms and interpretations and still sound brilliant. Not everyone enjoys the treatment – especially not Amazon’s reviewer – but I find it fascinating that it works as well as it does.

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