The mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), daughter of poet Lord Byron, is celebrated as a pioneer of computer science. The notes she added to her translation of Luigi Menabrea’s paper on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine (1843) are considered to contain a prototype computer program. During her short life, Lovelace not only contributed original ideas to the plans for this early computer; she also imagined wider possibilities for the engine, such as its application to music, and meditated on its limitations. Lovelace leaves a legacy not just as a computer scientist, but also as a muse for literary writers, a model to help us understand the role of women in science in the nineteenth century, and an inspiration for neo-Victorian and steampunk traditions.
As part of the University of Oxford’s celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Lovelace’s birth, this one-day workshop will bring together graduates and early career researchers to discuss the varied cultural legacies of this extraordinary mathematician. The day will feature an expert panel including graphic novelist Sydney Padua and biographer Prof Richard Holmes, as well as a keynote address from Prof Sharon Ruston, Chair in Romanticism in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Papers on the influences of Lovelace’s work will cover a broad spectrum from literature, philosophy, medicine, computer science to science teaching and Lego!