Ada Lovelace Day 2012: Thank you!

Ada Lovelace Day itself is over for this year, although there are still a few events yet to happen such as the XX Game Jam; the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon organised by Wikimedia UK and the Royal Society; the Girl Geek Dinner Milano; and the ADA Lab Lunch in Vicenza (details on the Worldwide Events page).

Ada Lovelace Day Live! feat. the WES Karen Burt Memorial Award was, as you might expect, absolutely fantastic and I would like to thank everyone who made it such an amazing evening.

Helen Arney

Helen Arney, photo by Andrew Steele.


I must particularly thank our speakers, Dr Suzie SheehyGia MilinovichDr Helen ScalesHelen KeenDr Alice BellSarah AnglissSydney Padua and Tracy King, all of whom gave up their time for free, and put so much energy and thought into a series of talks, performances and demonstrations that blew our collective minds. It was an amazing evening of full of science, passion, and the stories of some genuinely awe-inspiring women whose dedication to exploration and discovery was inspirational.

Very special thanks to Helen Arney, who not only hosted the event but also produced it, finding speakers and ensuring that the evening gelled as a performance. I’m also very grateful to her fantastic team of volunteers, Kirsty Chestnutt, Helen Clarkson, Marianne Baker and Julie Bristow, with whom she ran a show that would have been as at home in the Bloomsbury Theatre as it was at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

None of this would have been possible without Dawn Bonfield and the Women’s Society of Engineers (WES). It was only through collaborating with WES and the IET that we were able to enjoy such a great venue. So thanks to the staff of the IET who made the evening go so smoothly and who thought of many small details that we had missed, and also to the WES volunteers who helped out on the night: Grazyna Whapshott, Esther Ogundipe, Collete Owhonda and Susan Abraham.

I must also thank Milada Williams, WES president, as well as Karen Burt’s family for their support of the evening, and congratulate Kate Cooksey, winner of the WES Karen Burt Memorial Award.

Further thanks to Miles Taylor, an essential member of the Ada Lovelace Day/Finding Ada team who has provided much needed administrative and research support.

I’m also very grateful to our volunteers on the night, Neil Ford, Aidan Goatley, Joel Mitchell, Louise Ferguson, Maggie Berry and Owen Blacker, as well as BCSWomen, WPEngine and Evectors, and all the bloggers, podcasters, Tweeters and journalists who have helped us spread the word not just about the event but about the day itself. And, as ever, many thanks to all the people around the world who organised their own events, especially the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment  and the London Games Festival for organising the XX Games Jam.

Finally, heartfelt thanks to my husband, Kevin Anderson, for his continued help and support.

– Suw Charman-Anderson, Founder, Ada Lovelace Day


Reaching for the sky, stars and beyond
If you’re short of inspiration for this year’s Ada Lovelace Day, take a look at this infographic by Gaverne Bennett. Click the thumbnail to download a bigger PDF version.

Childe Byron

Jennifer Summerfield as Ada Lovelace

Jennifer Summerfield as Ada Lovelace, photo Kyle Cassidy

The Allens Lane Theater in Philadelphia, PA, is putting on Romulus Linney’s play, Childe Byron, about Ada Lovelace and her relationship to the father she never knew, Lord Byron.

As her own end draws near, Ada Byron Lovelace is seized with a desire to know more about her profligate father.  Stimulated by the drugs she takes for her illness, Ada summons Lord Byron to life and, in sharp, sarcastic exchanges, probes into the truth behind the myth. The life and art of Byron unfold and in the end the private man, the public figure and the protean poet are reconciled, while Ada, a genius in her own right, finds peace with herself and the father she never knew.

In this video, actress Jennifer Summerfield discusses the challenges of bringing Ada to the stage.

Jennifer, who is also known as Trillian Stars, told the Geekadelphia blog:

I love having the opportunity to play a woman whose life is so well documented; usually an actor’s homework involves coming up with your own character history, limited only by imagination. With Ada, however, I’ve had an amazing journey through the 19th Century, reading her letters and the letters of her father, Lord Byron, as well as Byron’s poetry. She was a fantastically complex person and is extremely difficult to portray with complete justice, because there were so many contradictions in her personality… both a woman of her time and ahead of it, poetic but scientific, cold yet emotional… and she often contradicted herself from one letter to another, making it difficult to pin her down and determine motivations.

A challenge like Ada is enough to draw me as an actor; there’s a need to get inside her head and look around, find the solution to this wonderful, complicated woman, just as Ada tries to discover the solution to her father, Lord Byron, in the play.

If you’re in the Philadelpha area, get your tickets and go along to one of the last two performances.

Childe Byron
Written by Romulus Linney
Directed by Ellen Wilson Dilks
Remaining dates: Oct. 12, 13
Run Time: 1hr 50min with intermission

Sarah Angliss: Automata for the people

If there’s one thing that most events simply don’t have enough of, it’s robots. Robots, and saws. Not so Ada Lovelace Day Live!, which will feature the robot-wrangling saw-flexing talents of Sarah Angliss, composer and tech historian.

Sarah describes her performances as “tapping into her obsessions with scientific oddities, obsolete machines, faded variety acts and the darkest European folk tales to create highly original, unsettling and sometimes strangely comic work.”

With a live show that can only be described as a technical marvel, Sarah’s geeky, science-focused music features theremin, keyboard and musical saw.


Hugo, one of Sarah’s robot friends

Sarah’s mechanical sidekicks include Hugo, a rather spooky roboticised, disembodied 1930s vent doll head, The Ealing Feeder, a robotic bell playing machine, and Clara 2.0, which Sarah describes as ‘the polite robot thereminist’.

Sarah, performing with Spacedog

Sarah, performing with Spacedog

Sarah’s band, Spacedog, is probably the only live band to give equal billing to both humans and robots and has been featured on Radio 4 and in 2011 won the Best Music Event of Brighton Festival and Fringe. She’s had received funding from NESTA Dreamtime and public engagement grants from the Wellcome Trust. In 2007, her digital performance Repeat Repeat, in collaboration with performer Caroline Radcliffe, won a Quake Dance Festival Award.

We can promise you, of all the performances you’ve seen in 2012, nothing will be quite like Sarah Angliss and her robot pals!

Tickets for ALD Live! are £10 for the general public, £5 for students. Book now!

Ada Lovelace and the IET

We are privileged to be holding Ada Lovelace Day Live! at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) this year, because of our partnership with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). As you’ve probably noticed, WES will be presenting the prestigious Karen Burt Memorial Award to a newly chartered woman engineer during ALD Live!.

But our presence at the IET is also appropriate for another reason: held in the IET archives are letters from Ada Lovelace to Michael Faraday, a letter from Lovelace’s close friend Charles Babbage to Faraday, and portraits of both Lovelace and Babbage. When I visited, IET archivist Sarah Hale was kind enough to arrange for me to see the letters and Lovelace’s portrait, although sadly the room where Babbage’s hangs was in use at the time.

Lovelace to FaradayThe IET has a number of letters from Lovelace to Faraday, including this one from 16 October 1844 (note: capitalisation, underlines, punctuation and spelling as per originals):

Dear Mr Faraday,

I have never yet thanked you for the little paper you sent me this spring. I read it with the deepest attention & interest, & it has suggested to me some very curious (& perhaps important) considerations for my own future use an an Analyst; considerations which fell in with some previous trains of ideas I had been long gradually forming, but which you have called into more tangible existence in my mind.

Perhaps no one has read your paper with such full appreciation as myself of it’s practical bearings; or has valued it so justly, both for it’s contents, & as presented to me by it’s Author, for whom I entertain an esteem little short of reverence.

Lovelace to Faraday 2Ada was keen to persuade Faraday to tutor her in maths, although Faraday was 53 by this time and, whilst flattered by her attentions, he was probably also a bit perturbed by this feisty young lady asking for tutelage. Lovelace wrote, on 10 November 1844:

Dear Mr Faraday,

I am exceedingly tickled with your comparison of yourself to a tortoise. It has excited all my fun (& I assure you I have no little of that in me).

I am also struck with the forcible truth of your designation of my character of mind:

elasticity of intellect“.

It is indeed the very truth, most happily put into language.

You have excited in my mind a ridiculous, but not ungraceful, allegorical picture, viz:

that of a quiet demure plodding tortoise, with a beautiful fairy gambolling round it in a thousand radiant & varying hues; the tortoise crying out, “Fairy, fairy, I am not like you. I cannot at pleasure assume a thousand aerial shapes & expand myself over the face of the universe. Fairy, fairy, have mercy on me, & remember I am but a tortoise“.

Babbage to Faraday

(You can read letter in full via scans kindly provided by the IET: part 1, part 2, part 3 & part 4.)

In an earlier letter held by the IET and dated 9 September 1843 Babbage writes to Faraday about Lovelace:

My dear Faraday,

I am not quite sure whether I thanked  you for a kind note imputing to me unmeritedly the merit of a present you received I conjecture from Lady Lovelace.

I now send you what out to have accompanied that Translation.

So you will now have to write another not so that Enchantress who has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of Sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects (in our own country at least) could have exerted over it. I remember well your first interview with the youthfull fairy which she herself has not forgotten and I am gratefull to you both for making my drawings rooms the Chateau D’Eu of Science.

Despite all the fairies and enchantresses bandied about by Lovelace and Babbage, Faraday never did acquiesce to Lovelace’s wishes that he let her become his pupil.

Portrait of Ada LovelaceThe portrait of Lovelace that hangs in a corridor outside the Lovelace Room is actually a copy by Mary Remington of the 1836 portrait by Margaret Sarah Carpenter, about which Lovelace joked:

“I conclude she is bent on displaying the whole expanse of my capacious jaw bone, upon which I think the word Mathematics should be written.”

Lovelace’s letters will be available to view during Ada Lovelace Day Live! in one of the display cabinets in the IET foyer.

If you’d like to see the letters and portraits, and are feeling generous, then the IET has offered Ada Lovelace Day supporters a tour at 2pm on 16 October as a part of our fundraiser.

Members of the public can also organise their own tour of the building and archives directly with the IET. Tours are free and usually last an hour.

Tel: 0207 3448407
The IET Archives