Ada Lovelace day: 15 October

Today is Ada Lovelace day, an annual celebration of achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths by women.  Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was a nineteenth century mathematician and computer pioneer.  Interested in all kinds of scientific developments, such as the brain and phrenology, Ada is most well known for her work on Charles Babbage’s invention of an analytical engine, a kind of mechanical computer.

Ada Lovelace portrait

Ada was noted for her ability to capture technical concepts and transform them into lucid and clear prose.  Her comments in the early 1840’s on Luigi Menabrea’s work contain what is believed to be one of the earliest computer programs, in the form of an algorithm for machine processes.

Ada was also the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron.  Byron featured her in the opening lines of the third canto of his poem Childe Harold, written soon after Ada’s birth and the break-up of Byron’s marriage to her mother:

‘Ada! sole daughter of my house and my heart?’

From our Reserve and Cole collections, one of our featured items highlights female achievement in the field of botanical art in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Pre-nineteenth century professional female artists were very rare, underlining the importance (and beauty!) of the work by Berthe Hoola van Nooten (1840-1855) and Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717).

Garcinia mangostana, Fleurs, fruits et feuillages choisis de la flore by Nooten, 1880

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