Who Was Ada Lovelace?

I’m going to go all fangrrrl on this lady, so beware!

This past Friday was international Ada Lovelace Day, where bloggers all over the world celebrated women in science and technology by spotlighting a specific woman in the field. I chose to highlight Dr. Janet Whitson. But who was Ada Lovelace?

Steampunk lovers know her as one of the character’s in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling‘s alternate history novel The Difference Engine, where Charles Babbage finishes his invention and the computer age is ushered in much earlier.

Computer programmers might have heard of her, because she’s credited as being the world’s first computer programmer. In fact, the United States Defense Department named their new computer language, unveiled back in 1980, ADA.

She’s a main character of a webcomic by Sydney Padua called 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. And someone made a LEGO mini figurine!

Did you know, though, that she was the only legitimate daughter of that bad boy of English poetry, Lord Byron?

Another cool fact: she actually, as a child, tried to invent a steam-powered horse! She was so steampunk! She had her scientific pen pals send her dead birds so she could measure wing span to body mass. I’m not making this up.

Besides The Difference Engine, she’s also a main character in this novel: Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land (P.S.). I came across this at a library sale, talk about serendipity! It’s an imagined novel of Byron’s but set within two different story frames: one present day emails of a researcher who has ‘discovered’ this lost novel, and ‘notes and letters’ written by Ada about her attempts to recover the novel and hide it from her mother.

Are you now scratching your head wondering why you’d never heard of her? (If you already have, yay!). She’s downright amazing. I thought I’d do a little round-up of fellow bloggers who’ve gotten their geek on about Ada as well as some biographies you can get to learn more about this amazing woman.

Blog/News posts and other cool linkages:


In Celebration of Ada Lovelace Day: Dr. Janet Whitson

Today is world-wide Ada Lovelace Day. Daughter of English poet, Lord Byron, she is often credited as being the first computer programmer. The United States Department of Defense named their computer program in 1980 ADA, in her honor. More about Lady Lovelace on Wikipedia.

Today, blogs worldwide are honoring her by picking a woman in science or technology to profile as role models for young women. I decided to not pick a household name, but instead find someone working hard in their profession and inspiring students. Through HER-stories.com, I found Dr. Janet Whitson.

Dr. Whitson is Associate Professor of Biology at Concordia University Nebraska. She has published research articles, her main focus being Alzheimer’s disease (specifically the beta-amyloid protein), traumatic brain injury, and ischemia. Her favorite brain part is the hippocampus, and all of her research has been focused on this area. Plus, you gotta love that she’s a geek at heart, quoting Star Wars. I admire her for not only her academic achievements, and her mentoring of students, but that she’s also helping other women through her monthly column at HER-stories.com.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

To Our Future – a time-travel romance

time travelOkay, so about the novel I’m working on. I’m really excited about it as I’ve always been a sucker for the time travel story. It’s such a fun way to see history and I love the juxtapositions of modern sensibilities with whatever past the protagonist is in. 
So, when it came time to come up with my NaNoWriMo 2010 project, I thought, why not? I knew I wanted to go back to the 1800s, but I wasn’t quite sure when. After doing some preliminary research, I ran across a Wikipedia article on Ada Byron Lovelace and I knew I had to have her be a supporting character. I initially conceived that Charles Babbage would play a larger role (even toyed with him being the romantic lead!) but decided to let Ada’s light shine on her own — it seems she’s always coupled with Babbage. So the one year where she was “out” (having her London debut as a marriageable young lady) was 1834, so that’s when my story takes place.
Here’s the back cover blurb for it so far (any advice on improving it would be totally welcomed!)

Isabelle Rochon is an American museum curator working for the British Museum. When she finds a mysterious silver card-case, she thinks it a perfect accessory for a reenactment ball. But what she thought would be an exciting lark, fulfilling her desire to “live a little history”, becomes more than she bargained for when she realizes that the attendees are a little too realistic: she is truly in 1834 London, England. There she meets Lord Montagu, who’s so hot he curls her toes. A thief steals her silver case, stranding a feisty, modern American in a stiffly polite London on the verge of the Victorian age. She finds it hard to resist her growing attraction for Lord Montagu, known even to his relatives as the Vicious Viscount.

Can their love overcome the biggest barrier of all – time? And what difference will a working model of the Difference Engine make to the next two centuries?

I’m currently on the third draft and hoping to have that wrapped up soon so I can have some folks I trust read it through and help find all the slips in logic, continuity errors, bad grammar, uneven pacing, bad plot decisions, the usual stuff. Meanwhile, I will post soon some lessons I’ve learned this summer while revising this, plus excerpts from this working draft.

What are some of your favorite time travel books?