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.