School of Informatics

Ursula Martin to talk about Ada Lovelace at Edinburgh Book Festival

Ada Lovelace continues to be a role model not just for women in STEM.

Cover of 'Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist'

New book featuring her story co-written by Christopher Hollings (University of Oxford) and Ursula Martin (University of Edinburgh, formerly University of Oxford) together with colleague Adrian Rice from Randolph-Macon College is out now. Professor Martin will be speaking about the book at the Edinburgh Book Festival this August.

A sheet of apparent doodles of dots and lines lay unrecognised in the Bodleian Library until Ursula Martin spotted what it was - a conversation between Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage about finding patterns in networks, a very early forerunner of the sophisticated computer techniques used today by the likes of Google and Facebook. It is just one of the remarkable mathematical images to be found in the new book, 'Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist'.

“Lovelace’s far sighted remarks about whether the machine might think, or compose music, still resonate today. This book shows how Ada Lovelace, with astonishing prescience, learned the maths she needed to understand the principles behind modern computing.” says Professor Ursula Martin.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of poet Lord Byron and his highly educated wife, Anne Isabella. Active in Victorian London's social and scientific elite alongside Mary Somerville, Michael Faraday and Charles Dickens, Ada Lovelace became fascinated by the computing machines devised by Charles Babbage.  A table of mathematical formulae sometimes called the ‘first programme’ occurs in her 1843 paper about his most ambitious invention, his unbuilt ‘Analytical Engine.’

Ada Lovelace had no access to formal school or university education but studied science and mathematics from a young age. This book uses previously unpublished archival material to explore her precocious childhood: her ideas for a steam-powered flying horse, pages from her mathematical notebooks, and penetrating questions about the science of rainbows. A remarkable correspondence course with the eminent mathematician Augustus De Morgan shows her developing into a gifted, perceptive and knowledgeable mathematician, not afraid to challenge her teacher over controversial ideas.

Related links

'Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist' - 1st edition

Event at the EIBF