Friday, 7 October 2011

Ada Lovelace Day

Despite my obvious leaning towards the arts and my passion for literature, I've always felt a strong pull towards the sciences as well. I studied physics at A-level, and of all the subjects I took, it is that still intrigues me now above all else. Perhaps that's due to the spectacular and enthusiastic teachers that I was very fortunate to have, but for whatever reason, my interest in the topic is one that still persists now.

Because of that, I've decided to turn my literary blog over to the dark side today to mark Ada Lovelace Day. Ada is a woman who has always fascinated me; until last year I lived in the village in which her father, Lord Byron, is buried. George Gordon Byron is one of my greatest inspirations, and as such, I spent much of my free time whilst living in Nottinghamshire researching his life. When I first read about his daughter, Ada, my interest was immediately piqued.

Like the father she did not know, Ada fought against the conventions of her time. Born in the midst of the glorious and debauched Regency era in England, her mother raised her to be the very opposite of her father, fearful that she might inherit Lord Byron's infamous and volatile poetic temperament that led to him being described as 'mad, bad and dangerous to know'. Instilling in her daughter a love for science, logic and mathematics from a young age, Annabella Millbanke provided her child with the early tools to become renowned as 'the Enchantress of Numbers' and, perhaps, the very first computer programmer.

It was a tragedy that Ada's life was cut short by cancer at the age of thirty six, and painful to imagine how much more she could have achieved had she been able to live a longer life.

Still, though, what she managed was spectacular, throwing off the confines that had historically been applied to women and unknowingly becoming an inspiration for generations of women to come.

Working alongside the famous Charles Babbage, she translated Luigi Menabrea's notes on Babbage's Analytical Engine - the forerunner for the modern computer - and in doing so, created an article three times longer than the original that many recognise as containing the world's first computer program.

Ada was buried alongside her father at the very beautiful Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham. I spent many hours there paying silent homage to the both of them, and, with Newstead Abbey, it is one of the things I miss most since leaving Nottingham

Ada Lovelace Day is all about recognising the women who have been influential in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering and technology; areas which are, of course, traditionally dominated by men. The woman who has most inspired me is not someone that any of you will know, but she is the most important woman in my life - my aunt and my godmother, Audrey.

Through Audrey, I've learnt to revel in my love of learning and push myself further each day. Qualifying as a nurse in the 1970's, my aunt has constantly fought to keep learning and advance herself. Her knowledge of medicine is spectacular, and she has deservedly won herself many advancements and much recognition in her field. She makes me incredibly proud to be her niece, and now that I have a daughter myself, I only hope that my daughter will come to love her aunt as much as I do.

Perhaps, one day, my daughter will make the decision to work in the sciences. Without sounding like an overly proud mamma, she's one smart cookie, and if she has even half of the determination of her great-aunt, she'll go far and achieve whatever she sets her mind to - just like Ada Lovelace.

So, this one goes out to all the women out there, both today and through the ages, who have devoted themselves to scientific advancement and furthering our understanding of the world around us. This romantic and temperamental author salutes you.

Kate x


  1. As a Nottingham lad, and a geek, you were bound to win me over with this one.

  2. You get double plus points in my book then!