Chapters & Scenes is a challenge, launched by Mariana’s It’s Ok. We have to write about a movie, series or book, and we have to take into consideration the theme of each month. October is dedicated to Girl Bosses, as extraordinary women. So, why not Ada?
Augusta Ada King, known worldwide as Ada Lovelace, is celebrated as the first programmer in history — a deed she accomplished thanks to the combination of her mathematical skills with the poetic imagination she inherited from her father, the (in)famous poet Lord Byron.
Ada Lovelace: Bride of Science. Romance, Reason and Daughter of Byron, by Benjamin Woolley, tells how Ada became the pioneer of what she calls “poetic science”, at a time when romance distanced itself from reason, the instinct from intellect and the art from science.
As a young woman, Ada received an unusual education for a nineteenth-century British woman, since her mother insisted on mathematics and science just to drive her away from the arts, and especially from her father, who she never knew and whose face only first glimpsed, in portrait, when she was already married.
“If you can not give me poetry, can you give me poetic science?” Ada asked her mother.
Despite her mother’s efforts, Ada had never hated her father, and had always had a fascination with his figure and inherited enough from his poetic vein — so that even as a pre-adolescent, she was already making plans to fly: she conceptualized a flying machine, after studying the anatomy of birds and considering various materials for the realization of the project, which she described and illustrated in Flyology. But it was only when she met her mentor, the inventor and mathematician Charles Babbage, also known as the “father of the computer”, that her career began.
Translating from French into English an article by the military engineer — and future Italian Prime Minister — Luigi Menabrea on Babbage’s analytical ingenuity, Ada completed the translation with her own notes, three times longer than the original, which she published in 1843 in an English magazine.
In addition to contributing to the development of the first calculating machine, she created the first algorithm in history and recorded her belief that one day the machine that Babbage introduced to her would be able to translate into digital all that mankind desired. Ada was a visionary: she broke standards, moulded thoughts, and dared to dream ahead of her time.
She is recognized not only by her genius but also by her eccentric personality and relation with alcohol and the art of betting (in horses, for example). And although her excesses are not a source of envy, they are emblematic of a woman who felt free at a time when women were not supposed to do what they pleased.
Most of today’s children continue to draw copies of Einstein if they are asked to make a portrait of a scientist, and it’s not that I don’t find Einstein absolutely fascinating (because he is indeed!), but there are so many female scientists who deserve to be painted in crayons and exposed in the refrigerators of our homes — and Ada more, because she was a scientist who knew how to bond with the artist in herself.
I’m not close of getting to the end of The Bride of Science, but I’m already eager to read biographies of other female scientists and to buy Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and read the 100 stories about brave women who have changed the world (including Ada).