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

Suw chats with Mookychick about sexism in science and whether, somewhere, there’s a female Brian Cox

I was delighted to be asked by Mookychick to talk about sexism in science, Ada Lovelace Day and whether there’s a female Brian Cox out there. Here’s a snippet that’s particularly apposite, but do pop over and read the whole thing:

Ada Lovelace Day has set up a fundraiser this year. Well done on running it so long with volunteers. How will those funds help women in technology?

SCA: My key aim is to create a charitable organisation that can provide support to women in tech all year round, not just on one day. One project we’re working on is to create a database of all the different support groups that exist for women across different sectors, to make it easier for women to find the right kind of group for them. When I started in tech, I felt very isolated, a problem made worse by the fact that I was a freelance so didn’t spend long at any one company, and certainly not long enough to build a social support structure around myself. There are many more groups around now than there used to be, but like us, most of them have almost no budget and they don’t always have the reach they need. We’d like to help bridge that gap.

I’d also like to be able to help women with skills development, particularly around things like media training so that we can get more women experts on the TV and in the newspapers. Whenever there’s a big tech story, the pundits are almost always men, and it’d be great to be able to matchmake knowledgeable women with journalists so that we can even out the ratio a bit.

And finally, there’s a huge need for educational materials around women in technology and science. I’ve had a number of teachers come to me and ask if we have lesson plans that they could use for Ada Lovelace Day, but unfortunately we don’t. It would be great for us to be able to provide teachers at all grades with lesson plans that they can adapt for their classes. We need to inspire a new generation of girls and show them that women can be successful in technology, and this would be one way to could do that.

Maths speaker required for Ada Lovelace Day 2013

In an epic feat of planning ahead, the East Midlands branch of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) is searching for a female speaker to talk about the role of women (or a particular woman) in mathematics for an Ada Lovelace Day 2013 event.

They are looking for someone who could speak to a group of mathematicians and students interested in maths. Audience size would be up to 100, although that’s obviously difficult to predict. Traditionally the talks are held on a week-day evening at 7.30pm and typically last about 50 minutes. The venue would be a university in the East Midlands: Loughborough, Nottingham, Leicester, Derby or Nottingham Trent.

The IMA would be able to definitely cover travel expenses, and may be able to cover hotel costs although that would be confirmed nearer the time. The speaker would also be invited out for a meal either before or after the talk.

If interested, please email Carol Robinson directly.

Please support women in STEM with our ALD fundraiser

I am very excited to say that we have just launched our first ever Ada Lovelace Day fundraiser on Indiegogo. We hope to raise $24,000 (£15,000) so that we can create a formal charitable organisation to develop our activities, and for that we need your support.

Since its inception, Ada Lovelace Day has been run entirely by volunteers and by partnering with organisations like the Women’s Engineering Society, the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, the London Games FestivalBCS Women and businesses like Evectors and Technophobia. We have managed a huge amount through the kindness and generosity of our volunteers and partners, but there is so much more we could do.

Our future direction

There is so much that we would like to do to expand our reach, provide support for women who need it, and raise awareness of women’s contributions to the STEM disciplines. Here are a few of goals:

  • Create and collate teaching plans for all educational levels
  • Create an expert speakers directory for women in STEM
  • Provide media training for women interested in improving their communications skills
  • Hold events to introduce women in STEM to journalists
  • Outreach to relevant professional and student bodies
  • Curate stories of iconic women in STEM
  • Create a directory of organisations for women in STEM
We want to provide help to women in STEM not just on one day of the year, but all year round. If you want to see us realised these goals, please donate.

Where would the money go?

£5,000/$8,000: Our first priority is Ada Lovelace Day 2012 and ensuring that the events are given the administrative support that they need to be successful. We’ll also spend time adding more useful content to our website.

£10,000/$16,000: Reaching this goal would give us enough money to get professional advice and help in creating a formal charitable organisation.

£15,000/$24,000 or more: This would allow us to commission website design and development work. It would also give us the resources to do further fundraising to secure the long-term future of the organisation.

Ada Lovelace Day will always be a special event, but with your support we can extend our activities and help many more women flourish in science, technology, engineering and maths.

What if we don’t reach our goal?

This project is set to ‘keep what you raise’, which means that your kind donation will go towards supporting Ada Lovelace Day 2012, no matter what happens. Everything that you give, minus Indiegogo and payment processing fees, will help us to improve our support for women in STEM. If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll still get the money, but will pay more in fees.

Spreading the word

Whether you are able to support us or not, one really important thing you can do is spread the word:

Tell everyone in your social networks
Tweet it, blog it, Facebook it, Pin it! Share it on Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg. Let everyone know about Ada Lovelace Day and our fundraiser. And remember, no matter the size of your own personal network, the more we Tweet and reTweet, the further the message will spread.

Email your friends and/or relevant mailing lists
If you have friends who might be interested in supporting Ada Lovelace Day, why not send them a quick email about our fundraising project? Equally, if you’re on any science, technology, engineering, maths, or women-in-STEM mailing lists, and you feel that it would be appropriate, please do send them an email pointing them to this fundraiser.

Post an item on LinkedIn or Facebook Groups
If you’re in any tech, science or women-in-STEM LinkedIn or Facebook Groups, why not post a small item about Ada Lovelace Day and our fundraiser, and point people here so they can find out more?

Write a blog post, record a podcast
If you have a blog, podcast, videoblog or website, please tell your audience why you think supporting Ada Lovelace Day is a good idea and provide a link to this page.

Every single text, blog post, email and update helps us reach not just potential supporters, but also helps us to spread the word about Ada Lovelace Day and our events, so thank you!

Visit our Indieogogo page.

Interested in making games? Come to our XX Game Jam

For the second of our official Ada Lovelace Day events this year, we’ve partnered with the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment  and the London Games Festival to put on the XX Game Jam, a pioneering all-women event which will take place in London on 26/27th October.

A game jam is a gathering of developers, artists, and other creatives to design and make games in a very short space of time, in this case 24 hours. The event will run from 6.30pm on Friday 26 October until 11pm, and then from 9am until 6.30pm on Saturday 27 October. The theme for the games will be revealed on the Friday evening.

If you’re a programmer, producer, artist, designer, sound designer and composer, and you fancy coming along to try your hands at making some games, please apply for a spot. You don’t need to have any direct experience in the games industry, just enthusiasm!

Men are welcome to support the event and attend the games showcase and prize ceremony on the Saturday evening from 6.30pm, but only women may participate.

Entry to the event is free. Location is TBC but will be in London somewhere. And food and refreshments will be provided on both days. If you have any enquiries, please contact Debbie at Auroch Digital.

This event is also supported by DCRC@University of the West of England, London Games Festival, Next Gen Skills & Auroch Digital.