Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Who Was She?

This year Ada Lovelace Day is today! In celebration, sites around the world are spotlighting women in math and science. To learn more about this and read some amazing stories, visit the site Finding Ada.

I thought I’d instead revamp a blog post I did last year on just who she is and give a round up of awesome Ada news that happened this past year.

If you’re a new visitor to the site, you might first be wondering why I care about Lady Lovelace? Well, besides thinking she was made of awesome, she’s my main secondary character in my time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES, for which I just found an agent, so it will be on submission with publishers soon. I purposely picked 1834 as the year my heroine time travels to so she could meet Lady Lovelace when she was still single (and known as Miss Byron).

So, who was she?

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.

Want to really understand the power and importance of Lovelace and Babbage’s work? Watch this great video giving the background and also plans to build the Analytical Engine.

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.

She’s a main character of a webcomic by Sydney Padua called 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. This past year they announced the comics will finally be in book form! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage- BOOK!. They also now have a Lovelace & Babbage app for the iPad!

And someone made a LEGO mini figurine!

Are you now scratching your head wondering why you’d never heard of her? (If you already have, yay!).

Homage to Lady Lovelace through the ages from Tor.com’s artist Scott Brandage

This last year in Lady Lovelace land:

Totally sold? Halloween’s coming up! Here’s a page on Lady Lovelace and how you can make an Ada Lovelace costume for Halloween

Blog/News posts and other cool linkages:


12 Replies to “Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Who Was She?”

  1. I chuckled when I saw this. I didn’t realise so much has been written about her. My only question, Angela, is how did she meet her husband since she was single in Breeches, and who was he and he was a man who could handle such an astonishing woman (obviously))

  2. I forwarded the information on to the Byron list. Ada is an interesting character. I don’t think she had a particularly happy life.Her husband wasn’t so much mean as conventional and Ada was not. Her mother was a big drag on her doing anything. She ahd her taught mathematics but didn’t want her using the knowledge for anything. Ada wasn’t a disciplined mathematician. Like all too many others with some mathematical ability she tried to use it in gambling and lost her chemise. There have been some articles written trying to disparage her accomplishments. However, the arguments in favor of her accomplishments and contribution seem stronger.
    Hard to fond a truly objective biography of her.

    1. Yeah, pretty much her whole life sucked. I really wish I could strangle her mother and yep on her husband it seems like he was Lady Byron’s toady until right near the end of ADA’s life when he seemed to get a clue.

      Which Byron list?

  3. This is the very model of the linky-post that keeps on giving, loaded with tantalizing pictures (teenage steampunk inventor would be one of them). I’m still working my way through the resources here.

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