Exhibition celebrates the life of computing pioneer Ada Lovelace

29 October 2015

A free exhibition to celebrate 19th-century mathematician, computing pioneer and student of the sciences Ada Lovelace opened at the Science Museum in London on 13 October and is running until March 2016.

Exhibition celebrates the life of computing pioneer Ada Lovelace
© Science Museum

The opening coincided with Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. The Science Museum has also been running a series of events relating to her life and legacy, which began on 16 October and culminates on 30 October with the free event Material and Mechanical, an evening to bring scientists and artists together in a conversation about the perceived tensions between arts and sciences.

Lovelace (1815–52), who has a room named after her at the Institute of Physics’ London centre, was the daughter of the poet Byron and the renowned mathematician Annabella Milbanke. She translated Luigi Menabrea’s account of Charles Babbage’s design for an Analytical Engine, and was the first to see the potential of such machines in a way that anticipated the computer age.

Her extended notes on the translation contain the first published algorithm for the Analytical Engine, and these can be seen in the exhibition along with Lovelace’s portraits, letters and the calculating machines that she worked with.

Dr Tilly Blyth, lead curator of the exhibition said: “This exhibition reveals how Ada’s determination, knowledge and unbridled vision enabled her to anticipate the computer age a century ahead of her time. Ada was fascinated and enthralled by maths – she joked that her jaw appeared large enough on one portrait we show to write the word ‘mathematics’ on it – and this exhibition is the first opportunity to see Ada’s mathematical notes together with the extraordinary calculating machines she studied.”

Visitors will also have an opportunity to read Lovelace’s personal letters from the British Library and Bodleian Library collections, see Babbage’s detailed Analytical Engine drawings from the museum’s Babbage Archive and explore Ada Lovelace’s pioneering ideas through a digital display.

The exhibition will open late until 10pm every Friday. Further information can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk/adalovelace or by following the conversation online with #AdaLovelace.

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