Tag Archives: Ada Lovelace “… manipulative aggressive a drug addict …” and a genius but was she likable?

Ada Lovelace’s skills (embroidery, languages, and more) led to her pioneering computer work in the 19th century

This is a cleaned up version of the Ada Lovelace story,

A pioneer in the field of computing, she has a remarkable life story as noted in this October 13, 2014 posting, and explored further in this October 13, 2015 posting (Ada Lovelace “… manipulative, aggressive, a drug addict …” and a genius but was she likable?) published to honour the 200th anniversary of her birth.

In a December 8, 2022 essay for The Conversation, Corinna Schlombs focuses on skills other than mathematics that influenced her thinking about computers (Note: Links have been removed),

Growing up in a privileged aristocratic family, Lovelace was educated by home tutors, as was common for girls like her. She received lessons in French and Italian, music and in suitable handicrafts such as embroidery. Less common for a girl in her time, she also studied math. Lovelace continued to work with math tutors into her adult life, and she eventually corresponded with mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan at London University about symbolic logic.

Lovelace drew on all of these lessons when she wrote her computer program – in reality, it was a set of instructions for a mechanical calculator that had been built only in parts.

The computer in question was the Analytical Engine designed by mathematician, philosopher and inventor Charles Babbage. Lovelace had met Babbage when she was introduced to London society. The two related to each other over their shared love for mathematics and fascination for mechanical calculation. By the early 1840s, Babbage had won and lost government funding for a mathematical calculator, fallen out with the skilled craftsman building the precision parts for his machine, and was close to giving up on his project. At this point, Lovelace stepped in as an advocate.

To make Babbage’s calculator known to a British audience, Lovelace proposed to translate into English an article that described the Analytical Engine. The article was written in French by the Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea and published in a Swiss journal. Scholars believe that Babbage encouraged her to add notes of her own.

In her notes, which ended up twice as long as the original article, Lovelace drew on different areas of her education. Lovelace began by describing how to code instructions onto cards with punched holes, like those used for the Jacquard weaving loom, a device patented in 1804 that used punch cards to automate weaving patterns in fabric.

Having learned embroidery herself, Lovelace was familiar with the repetitive patterns used for handicrafts. Similarly repetitive steps were needed for mathematical calculations. To avoid duplicating cards for repetitive steps, Lovelace used loops, nested loops and conditional testing in her program instructions.

Finally, Lovelace recognized that the numbers manipulated by the Analytical Engine could be seen as other types of symbols, such as musical notes. An accomplished singer and pianist, Lovelace was familiar with musical notation symbols representing aspects of musical performance such as pitch and duration, and she had manipulated logical symbols in her correspondence with De Morgan. It was not a large step for her to realize that the Analytical Engine could process symbols — not just crunch numbers — and even compose music.

… Lovelace applied knowledge from what we today think of as disparate fields in the sciences, arts and the humanities. A well-rounded thinker, she created solutions that were well ahead of her time.

If you have time, do check out Schlombs’ essay (h/t December 9, 2022 news item on phys.org).

For more about Jacquard looms and computing, there’s Sarah Laskow’s September 16, 2014 article for The Atlantic, which includes some interesting details (Note: Links have been removed),

…, one of the very first machines that could run something like what we now call a “program” was used to make fabric. This machine—a loom—could process so much information that the fabric it produced could display pictures detailed enough that they might be mistaken for engravings.

Like, for instance, the image above [as of March 3, 2023, the image is not there]: a woven piece of fabric that depicts Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the inventor of the weaving technology that made its creation possible. As James Essinger recounts in Jacquard’s Web, in the early 1840s Charles Babbage kept a copy at home and would ask guests to guess how it was made. They were usually wrong.

.. At its simplest, weaving means taking a series of parallel strings (the warp) lifting a selection of them up, and running another string (the weft) between the two layers, creating a crosshatch. …

The Jacquard loom, though, could process information about which of those strings should be lifted up and in what order. That information was stored in punch cards—often 2,000 or more strung together. The holes in the punch cards would let through only a selection of the rods that lifted the warp strings. In other words, the machine could replace the role of a person manually selecting which strings would appear on top. Once the punch cards were created, Jacquard looms could quickly make pictures with subtle curves and details that earlier would have take months to complete. …

… As Ada Lovelace wrote him: “We may say most aptly that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.”

For anyone who’s very curious about Jacquard looms, there’s a June 25, 2019 Objects and Stories article (Programming patterns: the story of the Jacquard loom) on the UK’s Science and Industry Museum (in Manchester) website.

The last Ada Lovelace Day?

[downloaded from https://www.wthub.org/article/happy-ada-lovelace-day-sadly-the-last/]

I love this image. Unfortunately, it heralds what seems to be the last Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) according to the Women’s Tech Hub ~ Bristol,

Posted on by serrie

Happy Ada Lovelace Day – sadly the last!

This year, Ada Lovelace Day was celebrated on October 11, 2022 as Sue Gee notes in her ALD post on programmer.info (Note: Links have been removed),

Last Ever Ada Lovelace Day

Today [October 11, 2022] sees the final ever Ada Lovelace Day, an event which aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. The flagship event, combining science and comedy from an all-female line up takes place online starting at 8:00pm London time

Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) was founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009 and became an international event celebrating the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

So why was a nineteenth century aristocrat chosen to be the symbol of an effort to inspire women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, STEM?

The answer is that, due to her involvement with Charles Babbage, she is widely regarded as the person who wrote the first computer program, for more on this theme see our history article, Ada Lovelace, The First Programmer. This achievement has been widely popularized, including in children’s books, making hers a name that girls might recognize.

While the Finding Ada Network, which provides one-to-one mentorship for women in STEM and advocates who work towards gender equality, appears to be continuing, this year’s Ada Lovelace Day is the final such event due to lack of financial backing. Suw Charman-Anderson told the BBC the reason it was now coming to an end was:

“incredibly simple – we just couldn’t raise the funding to continue”. 

The announcement about the last Ada Lovelace Day is here in an October 11, 2022 BBC tech news item. Suw Charman-Anderson’s Finding Ada (Lovelace) website is here, where oddly enough I was not able to find confirmation that 2022 is the last year for ALD.

I have a lot of Ada Lovelace postings here but this October 13, 2015 post stands out for me, ‘Ada Lovelace “… manipulative, aggressive, a drug addict …” and a genius but was she likable?

Farewell Ada Lovelace Day.

Belated posting for Ada Lovelace Day (it was on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020)

For anyone who doesn’t know who Ada Lovelace was (from my Oct. 13, 2015 posting, ‘Ada Lovelace “… manipulative, aggressive, a drug addict …” and a genius but was she likable?‘)

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron and mathematician Annabella Milbanke.

Her [Ada Lovelace’s] foresight was so extraordinary that it would take another hundred years and Alan Turing to recognise the significance of her work. But it was an achievement that was probably as much a product of her artistic heritage as her scientific training.

You can take the title of that October 13, 2015 post as a hint that I was using ‘Ada Lovelace “… manipulative, aggressive, a drug addict …” and a genius but was she likable?‘ to comment on the requirement that women be likable in a way that men never have to consider.

Hard to believe that 2015 was the last time I stumbled across information about the day. ’nuff said. This year I was lucky enough to see this Oct. 13, 2020 article by Zoe Kleinman for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news online,

From caravans [campers] to kitchen tables, and podcast production to pregnancy, I’ve been speaking to many women in and around the technology sector about how they have adapted to the challenges of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Research suggests women across the world have shouldered more family and household responsibilities than men as the coronavirus pandemic continues, alongside their working lives.

And they share their inspirations, frustrations but also their optimism.

“I have a new business and a new life,” says Clare Muscutt, who lost work, her relationship and her flatmate as lockdown hit.

This Tuesday [Oct. 13, 2020] is Ada Lovelace Day – an annual celebration of women working in the male-dominated science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) sectors.

And, this year, it has a very different vibe.

Claire Broadley, technical writer, Leeds

Before lockdown, my husband and I ran our own company, producing user guides and written content for websites.

Business income dropped by about two-thirds during lockdown.

We weren’t eligible for any government grants. And because we still had a small amount of work, we couldn’t furlough ourselves.

It felt like we were slowly marching our family towards a cliff edge.

In May [2020], to my astonishment and relief, I was offered my dream job, remote writing about the internet and technology.

Working from home with the children has been the most difficult thing we’ve ever done.

My son is seven. He is very scared.

Sometimes, we can’t spend the time with him that we would like to. And most screen-time rules have gone completely out of the window.

The real issue for us now is testing.

My young daughter caught Covid in July [2020]. And she recently had a temperature again. But it took six days to get a test result, so my son was off school again. And my husband was working until midnight to fit everything in.

There are many other stories in Kleinman’s Oct. 13, 2020 article.

Nancy Doyle’s October 13, 2020 article for Forbes tends to an expected narrative about women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),

“21st century science has a problem. It is short of scientists. Technological innovations mean that the world needs many more specialists in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects than it is currently training. And this problem is compounded by the fact that women, despite clear evidence of aptitude and ability for science subjects, are not choosing to study STEM subjects, are not being recruited into the STEM workforce, are not staying in the STEM workplace.”

Why Don’t Women Do Science?

Professor Rippon [Gina Rippon, Professor of Neuroscience at Aston University in the UK] walked me through the main “neurotrash” arguments about the female brain and its feebleness.

“There is a long and fairly well-rehearsed ‘blame the brain’ story, with essentialist or biology-is-destiny type arguments historically asserting that women’s brains were basically inferior (thanks, Gustave le Bon and Charles Darwin!) or too vulnerable to withstand the rigours of higher education. A newer spin on this is that female brains do not endow their owners with the appropriate cognitive skills for science. Specifically, they are poor at the kind of spatial thinking that is core to success in science or, more generally, are not ‘hard-wired’ for the necessary understanding of systems fundamental to the theory and practice of science.

The former ‘spatial deficit’ description has been widely touted as one of the most robust of sex differences, quite possibly present from birth. But updated and more nuanced research has not been able to uphold this claim; spatial ability appears to be more a function of spatial experience (think toys, videogames, hobbies, sports, occupations) than sex. And it is very clearly trainable (in both sexes), resulting in clearly measurable brain changes as well as improvements in skill.”

You can find out more about women in STEM, Ada Lovelace, and events (year round) to celebrate her at the Ada Lovelace Day website.

Plus, I found this on Twitter about a new series of films about women in science from a Science Friday (a US National Public Radio podcast) tweet,

Science Friday @scifri

Celebrate #WomenInScience with a brand new season of #BreakthroughFilms, dropping today [October 14, 2020]! Discover the innovative research & deeply personal stories of six women working at the forefront of their STEM fields.

Get inspired at BreakthroughFilms.org

Here’s the Breakthrough Films trailer,