Category Archives: Exhibition

Celebrating the 200th anniversary of computer visionary Ada Lovelace

In 2015 the University of Oxford will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of computer visionary Ada Lovelace.  The centrepiece of the celebrations will be a display at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library (29 October – 18 December 2015)  and a Symposium (9 and 10 December 2015), presenting Lovelace’s life and work, and  contemporary thinking on computing and artificial intelligence.

An engraved portrait of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace.

An engraved portrait of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace. Drawn by Alfred Edward Chalon (1780–1860); Engraved by William Henry Mote (1803–1871)

Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815–1852), is best known for a remarkable article about Charles Babbage’s unbuilt computer, the Analytical Engine. This presented the first documented computer program, to calculate the Bernoulli numbers, and explained the  ideas  underlying Babbage’s  machine – and every one of the billions of computers and computer programs in use today. Going  beyond Babbage’s ideas of computers as manipulating numbers, Lovelace also wrote about their creative possibilities and limits: her contribution was highlighted in one of Alan Turing’s most famous papers ‘Can a machine think?’ Lovelace had wide scientific and intellectual interests and studied with scientist Mary Somerville, and with  Augustus De Morgan, a leading mathematician and pioneer in logic and algebra.

The display, in the Bodleian’s new Weston Library, will offer a chance to see Lovelace’s correspondence with  Babbage, De Morgan, Somerville and others, and her childhood exercises and  mathematical notes.  The  Symposium, on 9th and 10th December 2015, is aimed at a broad audience interested in the history and culture of mathematics and computer science, presenting current scholarship on Lovelace’s life and work, and linking her ideas to contemporary thinking about computing, artificial intelligence and the brain. Confirmed speakers so far include Lovelace biographer Betty Toole, computer historian Doron Swade, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, and graphic novelist Sydney Padua. Other activities will include a workshop for early career researchers, a “Music and Machines” event, and a dinner in Balliol College on 9th December, the eve of Lovelace’s 200th birthday.

Oxford’s celebration is led by the Bodleian Libraries and the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science, working with colleagues in the Mathematics Institute, Oxford e-Research Centre, Somerville College,  the Department of English and TORCH. Oxford has a remarkable history of programming research, with two winners of the ACM A.M. Turing Award, the Nobel Prize for Computer Science, and the unique breadth and depth of Oxford’s expertise brings a variety of perspectives to understanding Lovelace and the remarkable intellectual community around her, whose ideas
underpin modern computing.

For more information, please keep an eye on our Ada Lovelace website, where we’ll be listing events, and other news. Please register your interest to receive an email when we open up the Symposium to registration in June 2015.

Professor Ursula Martin
Department of Computer Science
University of Oxford

War or Peace? 10 days in the Summer of 1914

In July 1914 there was no certainty that Britain would become entangled in the ‘Austro-Servian War’ which emerged from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June. The Liberal government in London was deeply divided over Britain’s possible role in a European conflict. A major new source for the deliberations that took place in H.H. Asquith’s Cabinet in the Summer of 1914 is Lewis Harcourt’s political journal. Harcourt, who was Colonial Secretary, sat next to Asquith at the Cabinet table. He maintained a record of proceedings despite being warned more than once by his colleagues not to do so. No official Cabinet diary was kept until David Lloyd George began the practice in December 1916.

Monogram on Lewis Harcourt's ministerial trunk in which his political journal was housed before it was acquired by the Bodleian Library.

Monogram on Lewis Harcourt’s ministerial trunk in which his political journal was housed before it was acquired by the Bodleian Library.

To mark the centenary of British intervention in the First World War on 4 August 1914, we shall be posting entries from Harcourt’s journal on the Oxford World War I Centenary blog from 26 July to 4 August. The journal traces the slide into war, and captures the changing opinions of individuals and groupings of ministers both for and against intervention.

Harcourt’s journal features in the Bodleian Libraries exhibition The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches.

-Matthew Neely

From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

OXFORD LITERARY FESTIVAL EVENT

From Downing Street to the Trenches: First-Hand Accounts from the Great War, 1914-1916

2:00pm | Monday 24 March 2014 | Bodleian: Convocation House | Tickets £11 | details

Mike Webb will be talking about his book to be published alongside the Bodleian Libraries Exhibition, The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches, 1914-1916 which runs from 12 June to 2 November 2014

step-into your place-poster

 

Nuffield benefactions and other gifts

The National Trust recently announced the opening to the public of Nuffield Place, near Henley, the former home of William Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1877-1963). From beginnings in cycle repair and sales in the back garden of his parents’ home in James Street, Oxford, Morris built a motor manufacturing empire. One of the greatest philanthropists of the 20th century, his generosity is best remembered in his home city for benefactions to medicine and the founding of Nuffield College. £2m to establish the University’s Nuffield Institute for Medical Research in 1936 was followed the next year by the endowment of a number of chairs of medicine and the appointment of the Nuffield Professors.

Nuffield benefactions
A Both respirator in use, 1943

Medicine, as well as engineering, seems to have held a fascination for Lord Nuffield. The tool bench in his bedroom, a place of retreat from insomnia, is reputed to have included his appendix in a jar. In 1938 he was inspired by the work of Edward Both, the Australian designer of a new type of respirator or ‘iron lung’, to offer part of his car factory for its manufacture. Hundreds of these Both-Nuffield respirators were then provided free of charge to hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. See:

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/nuffields-gift-of-iron-lungs-aka-nuffields-gift

Among the items to be seen at Nuffield Place is an ‘iron lung’.

Correspondence and papers of Lord Nuffield are held by Nuffield College.

Parliament Week

Just a quick note to say that the Conservative Party Archive featured prominently as a part of the Bodleian Libraries’ participation in UK Parliament Week. Parliament Week is a new national initiative supported by both Houses of Parliament that aims to increase awareness of Parliament and its work as well as encourage participation in the democratic process.

The theme for this year was ‘Stories of Democracy’, and the Libraries highlighted items and collections relating to democracy and Parliament in the United Kingdom, from the Magna Carta to the Conservative Party Archive.

All the week’s posts can be found on the Libraries’ Parliament Week pages. The CPA features in the following:

In addition, Conservative Party Archivist Jeremy McIlwaine spoke to Culture 24 about the work and contents of the Archive; the interview is up on the Culture 24 website