When I was a kid, I used to play some epic games in the bathtub. You did too, don’t try to deny it.
All those silly little storytelling games you made up while the water slowly cooled?
One game I remember playing in particular was the one in which I was a daredevil spy for the British Crown, and my codename was Lady Ada.
I thought at the time that I had totally made this name up, that this combination of letters and sounds simply hadn’t existed until I had come along to devise it and claim it as my own.
Also, I thought it kicked all kinds of ass.
Imagine my surprise and amazement when, later in life, I discovered the awesomeness that is Ada Lovelace! While my high opinion of my own creative powers may have taken a blow, I consoled myself with the fact that my namesake was so undeniably kickass as to render the point moot.
Yeah, I was forever rendering points “moot” when I was a kid. I bet I was pretty freaking annoying, when it comes right down to it.
So Ada Lovelace, as you surely already know, was Lord Byron’s only legitimate child. Born of his extremely misguided union with the unfortunate Anne Milbanke, a very serious-minded young woman who had high hopes of reforming the mad, bad, seriously dangerous Lord Byron.
Oh, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
“Reform” Byron. Honestly. That one never gets old. Excuse me while I wipe the tears of hilarity from mine eyes.
So anyway, the two mismatched turtle doves stayed together long enough to produce a child, who was born just before Anne decided Byron was well past redemption and that she was better off prosecuting him — in excruciating detail — for all of his admittedly beastly behavior.
Look, I know Byron was a jerk on an absolutely monumental scale. But honestly, Anne, could you not see that one coming? Just one teensy little bit?
No, I guess one never really does. Alas.
So Ada turned out to be a right sharp little nut, despite the unalloyed nuttiness of her forbears. In fact, her story is so phenomenal that I honestly think it can only best be told in a dramatic black and white webcomic format, by the altogether delightful 2D Goggles, AKA Sydney Padua.
Seriously. Click on the picture to read the comic. You will not be sorry.
For a somewhat more traditional and, I suppose, restrained biography of Ada Lovelace, you should maybe read Essie Fox’s post from the other day, over on her blog The Virtual Victorian.
See, Ada Lovelace here was the very first computer programmer. Her buddy Charles Babbage had created plans for the first mathematical computing machine (his “Analytical Engine”), but Ada is the one who worked out the algorithm that would make the machine actually, you know, useful.
Pretty sweet, huh?
Ada Lovelace Day is now celebrated around the world every October, in an effort to bring to light more stories of women who have changed the world or inspired others in the fields of math, science, and technology. The event is organized by Suw Charman-Anderson, who will be instantly recognized by alert readers of this blog as the woman behind Argleton, that fantastic Kickstarter book project I was raving about not that long ago.
I’m doing my bit for Ada Lovelace Day here by spreading the cheer about Ada herself, and I’ve also posted an article on the history blog Wonders and Marvels (where I am now a monthly contributor) about 19th-century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.
And if you don’t think that a photographer in the 1860s was every bit of a scientist, chemist, experimental designer, and technologist, well then I’m just not sure we can be friends anymore.
Of course, by the time Julia was snapping pics of her buddies Darwin and Tennyson, Ada was dead. She died at age 36, when she was really only just getting started, dammit.
The Analytical Engine was never built (although some people are still trying), but Ada’s notes on the machine and its governing algorithm went on to directly inspire Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s.
So I think I was seriously on to something in that bathtub — Lady Ada is a kickass codename. You just can’t make this stuff up.