London Blog

The Scientific Tourist in London: #3 Ada Lovelace Plaque

Exploring London’s scientific museums, statues, plaques and locations.

Where?North side of St James Square, surrounded by gentlemen’s clubs and foreign embassies.

What? Today is Ada Lovelace day, the first annual celebration (at least among bloggers and podcasters) of women in technology. Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) often gets the credit as the first computer programmer. She studied the ideas of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engines, which provided a mechanical means of making complex calculations. Her notes on the subject reveal a means of using such an Engine to calculate Bernoulli numbers (way too complex – in both senses – for me to describe here). For this achievement, Lovelace is usually cited as the first programmer, and her notes detail the first piece of computer software.

The plaque at 12 St James Square marks Ada’s home from 1835, after her marriage to Lord King. The home sits between the London Library (perhaps the most august lending library in the world) and a house with a triple-plaque to three Prime Ministers – Pitt, Derby and Gladstone. Clearly, an impressive address.

Ada was born just around the corner at what is now 139 Piccadilly before moving off to Branch Hill, Hampstead with her mother. Her final home was in the Marble Arch area, where she died of uterine cancer. Ada’s son-in-law Wilfred Scawen Blunt also earned a blue plaque in Buckingham Gate as a poet and traveller. And you may have heard of her father, a certain Lord Byron. Talented family.

To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, head down to the Science Museum this lunch time, where an actress will portray the mathematician at 1.30 in the computer gallery. You can also view Ada’s St James house via the wonders of Google Street View.

Comments

  1. Report this comment

    Heather Etchevers said:

    Matt, I am going to save these posts up for the next time I am in London, if I can’t have you as a personal guide again. Priceless!

  2. Report this comment

    Matt Brown said:

    I’ll try and put a few more together. It’s a never-ending pot of inspiration. And I’m always happy to play the guide if you’re in town.

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    Ruth Wilson said:

    Matt, this is great. Would it ever be possible to have a women in science tour of London? I wonder if others would be interested… UKRC would be delighted to advertise it, and I for one would want to come along. We could advertise it as well on the Mums in Science and Women in Science forums here on NN…

    We have as our current two-week guest blogger Ada’s great great great niece:

    http://www.ukrc4setwomen.org/html/women-and-girls/getsetwomen-blog/

  4. Report this comment

    Matt Brown said:

    Yes, that sounds like a fun idea. Thanks Ruth. I’ll contact you separately after I’ve had a look around.

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