Monthly Archives: October 2015

Full programme: Ada Lovelace Symposium

We are delighted to announce the full programme for the Ada Lovelace Symposium on 9 and 10 December, and for the associated  interdisciplinary workshop for graduate students and early-career researchers on 8 December.

Registration is now closed. All events take place in the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford.  Travel information Other information contact Sarah Baldwin <>

Livestreaming here

Interdisciplinary workshop, Tuesday 8 December

‘Texts and contexts: the cultural legacies of Ada Lovelace’, an interdisciplinary workshop for graduate students and early-career researchers, will include papers on a wide variety of Lovelace-related topics, from Lovelace and Literature, to Lovelace and Lego.  More details and abstracts here can be found at

Ada Lovelace Symposium, Wednesday 9 December

From 9.30am: Coffee and registration
11am: Session 1
Symposium Opening, Alexander Wolf, President of the ACM, Professor at Imperial College London

  • 11.05am, Doron Swade, Royal Holloway, University of London
    Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace: two visions of computing
  • 11.50am, Bernard Sufrin, University of Oxford
    Interpreting dreams of abstract machines
  • 12.30pm, Adrian Johnstone, Royal Holloway, University of London
    Notions and notations: designing computers before computing

1pm: Lunch

1.45pm: Session 2
Chair: Nick Woodhouse, President of the Clay Mathematics Institute

  • 1.45pm, Ursula Martin, University of Oxford and Soren Riis, Queen Mary University of London
    ‘Ada Lovelace, a scientist in the archives
  • 2.30pm, David De Roure, University of Oxford and Emily Howard, Royal Northern College of Music and University of Liverpool
    Turning numbers into notes
  • 3pm, John Barnes, Ada software consultant
    From Byron to the Ada Programming Language
  • 3.15pm, The National Museum of Computing,  ‘Write a letter to Ada’ competition prize giving

3.30pm: Break, refreshments

4pm: Session 3
Chair: Sir Drummond Bone, Master of Balliol College

  • 4pm, Betty Toole, Author
    Ada Lovelace lives forever: Ada’s four questions
  • 4.45pm, Richard Holmes, British Academy
    Will you concede me Poetical Science?

5.45pm: Break and move to Reception and dinner

6.30pm: Reception and dinner
With Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, and the Rt Hon the Earl of Lytton, and the world premières of two short pieces composed by James Whitbourn,  ‘An algorithmic study on ADA’ and ‘ADA’, performed by the choir Commotio, with Andrew Bernardi (violin) and  Anna Lapwood (harp),  conducted by Matthew Berry. Dinner, with  address by Dame Stephanie Shirley

Thursday, 10th December

9am: Session 4 
Chair: Vicki Hanson, Vice-President of the ACM, professor at University of Dundee and Rochester Institute of Technology9am, June Barrow-Green, Open University

  • Pythagoras to pacifism: mathematics and archives
  • 9.30am, Julia Markus, Hofstra University
    The early education of Ada Byron
  • 10am, Christopher Hollings, University of Oxford
    The mathematical correspondence of Ada Lovelace and Augustus De Morgan

10.30am: Break, refreshments

11am: Session 5
Chair: Sally Shuttleworth, Professor at University of Oxford

  • 11am, Elizabeth Bruton, Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford
    Enchantress of Numbers or a mere debugger?: a brief history of cultural and academic understandings of Ada Lovelace
  • 11.30am, Imogen Forbes-Mcphail, University of California, Berkeley
    The Analytical Engine and the Aeolian Harp
  • 12 noon,Sydney Padua, Graphic Artist and Animator
    Imaginary engines

12.45pm: Lunch

1.30pm: Session 6
Chair: Michael Wooldridge, Head of the Department of Computer Science,  University of Oxford

  • 1.30 pm, Judith Grabiner, Pitzer College
    Mathematics and culture: geometry and its ‘Figures in the Air’
  • 2.15pm, Moshe Vardi, Rice University
    ‘Humans, machines, and the future of work

3pm: Break, and Ada Lovelace’s birthday cake

3.30pm: Panel
Enchantress of Abstraction, Bride of Science: must Ada Lovelace be a superheroine?
Chair: Muffy Calder, University of Glasgow

  • Valerie Barr, Union College and Chair ACM-W
  • Suw Charman-Anderson, Founder of Ada Lovelace Day
  • Murray Pittock, University of Glasgow
  • Cheryl Praeger, University of Western Australia

4.30pm: End

8 December: ‘Text and Contexts: the Cultural Legacies of Ada Lovelace’

Registration is open for ‘Texts and contexts: the cultural legacies of Ada Lovelace’, an interdisciplinary workshop for graduates and early-career researchers. The workshop, taking place on Tuesday 8 December, at 10am  and will include papers on a wide variety of Lovelace-related topics, from Lovelace and Literature, to Lovelace and Lego.

The day will bring together postgraduates, early career researchers, and anyone with an interest in Ada Lovelace, to discuss the cultural influences of Lovelace’s work from the 19th century to the present day.

Our keynote address will be delivered by Professor Sharon Ruston (Lancaster University), who will later be joined in a roundtable discussion by Professor Richard Holmes, Sydney Padua, and Miranda Seymour. We also look forward to hearing papers on a wide variety of topics, from teaching and curating Lovelace in the 21st century, to Lovelace’s influence in the humanities.

The timings for the day are as follows:

9.30-10am Arrivals
10-10.15am Opening remarks
10.15-11.15am Panel 1: Artistic Legacies

  • Imogen Forbes-Macphail, ‘A sentimental mathematical correspondence: Ada Lovelace’s writing’
  • Anne Loveridge, ‘”Unweave a rainbow”: Ada Lovelace and the poetic mystery of science’

11.15-11.30am Coffee
11.30am-12.30pm Panel 2: Computing

  • Melissa Highton, ‘Wikipedia and the “trouble with girls”: edit in the name of Lovelace’
  • Carlo Ierna, ‘Lovelace and Descartes on the limits and possibilities of thinking machines’
  • Jane Waite, ‘Mrs Lovelace teaches year 2 computing’
  • 12.30-1.30pm Lunch

1.30-2.30pm Keynote address by Professor Sharon Ruston
2.30-3.30pm Panel 3: Ada’s Brains

  • Madelaine Schurch, ‘Ada Lovelace, mania, and visionary scientific imagination’
  • Lesley Gray, ‘Magnets and mesmerism: Ada Lovelace at the cusp of reason and romance’
  • Rebecca Barnes, ‘Serious play with Babbage and Lovelace: Lovelace’s role in shaping Babbage’s heuristic turn of mind’

3.30-3.45pm Coffee
3.45-4.45pm Panel 4: Public Engagement

  • Stewart Cromar, ‘LEGO Lovelace: building a modern icon’
  • Katherine Platt, ‘Lovelace at the Science Museum’
  • Georgina Ferry, ‘”If my wave can…follow & touch yours…”: Broadcasting the letters of Ada Lovelace’

4.45-5.45pm Roundtable discussion with Professor Richard Holmes, Sydney Padua, Professor Sharon Ruston, and Miranda Seymour
5.45-6pm Closing remarks

Abstracts for papers can be found on our website at

Contact us with any questions at

Anyone with an interest in Lovelace is welcome to attend. Registration is now closed but contact Sarah Baldwin if you are interested in attending.

Only known photographs of Ada Lovelace in Bodleian Display

The Bodleian Libraries is hosting a special display to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the Victorian mathematician who is often referred to as the first computer programmer. It contains two  remarkable daguerreotypes, one reproduced here, a pair made by made by Antoine Claudet in the early 1840s. They  are the only known photographs of Lovelace.

Ada Lovelace, about 1843, image reproduced by courtesy of G M Bond

Daguerreotype of Ada Lovelace, about 1843, reproduced by courtesy of G M Bond

Claudet learned the art of photography from Louis Daguerre, the inventor of one of the earliest photographic processes. He established his first Daguerreotype studio in London, in the Strand, in 1841, then moved to Regent’s Park and finally Regent’s Street. His output was phenomenal – over 1800 portraits a year – and his customers included many well known figures in fashionable, literary and scientific circles, among them Michael Faraday, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.

He would often take several pictures of his subjects at the same sitting, using elaborate painted backdrops, which recur in several of his images. These allow us to date these pictures of Lovelace to around 1843, at the time when she was writing her famous paper on Babbage’s Analytical Engine.

As well as being customers of the new photographers, Ada Lovelace and her circle were intrigued by the science of photography and the contribution photographic processes might make to science. Apart from her famous paper on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, her only other known publication is in the form of long footnotes to an article by her husband, William Earl of Lovelace, in the Royal Agricultural Society journal. The article, which he describes as being written for the ‘leather-gaiter-and-top-boot-mind’, reviews a paper by the French economist Gasparin, about possible laws linking climate and the yield of crops, referring to a wide variety of observations of weather and plants collected by both professionals and amateurs. Ada Lovelace observes that photographic devices, such as the actinograph designed by her friend John Herschel, allow the construction of ‘meteorological instruments of the utmost delicacy’, and criticises Gasparin ‘who seems to write unaware of the means which photography has offered’.

In similar vein, she reflected on the potential of photography in providing objective evidence of psychic phenomena. In an unpublished article she writes, ‘If amateurs, of either sex, would amuse their idle hours with experimenting on this subject, & would keep an accurate journal of their daily observations, we should in a few years have a mass of registered facts to compare with the observation of the Scientific’, concluding that ‘we believe that it is as yet quite unsuspected how important a part photography is to play in the advancement of human knowledge’.


Daguerreotype of an 1852 painting of Ada Lovelace, reproduced by courtesy of G M Bond

A third poignant daguerreotype, by an unknown photographer, is a photograph of a small portrait of Ada Lovelace, frail and thin, painted by Henry Wyndham Phillips in the last months of her life, when she was in great pain from uterine cancer.  Her husband recorded progress on the portrait in his diary – on 2 August ‘she managed to remain long enough when he came for him to make some progress’, on 3 August that he was ‘getting on with the portrait’, and on 13 August that though ‘the suffering was so great that she could scarce avoid crying out’, yet ‘she sat at the piano some little time so that the artist could portray her hands’. The Bodleian archives contain a note written in her last days, in which she leaves ‘a daguerreotype from Philips’s portrait of me’ to her mother’s friend, Miss Montgomery.

Professor Ursula Martin CBE, University of Oxford