Mathematical winters: Ada Lovelace, 200 years on #WomenInSTEM


Via The Conversation. Thanks to Michiel for sending this in!

Christmas 1840, cold and crisp. The fashionable and wealthy Lovelace family are learning to skate, the four year-old Byron (junior, the grandson of Lord Byron) pushing a chair along the ice to keep his balance. Driven inside by the cold, his mother retires to her study and her lessons in advanced calculus. She writes to her tutor: “This is very mathematical weather. When one cannot exercise one’s muscles out of doors, one is peculiarly inclined to exercise one’s brains in-doors.” Then she plunges into a detailed discussion of the convergence of series.

Her name is Ada, Countess of Lovelace. Her teacher was Augustus De Morgan, one of the foremost mathematicians of the day. She is studying the material he taught his advanced class at the then all-male University College London: he writes of her power of thinking as “utterly out of the common way”, capable of grasping the “real difficulties of first principles”.

This grounding in advanced mathematics was essential for Ada Lovelace’s most famous work, a paper published in 1843, which translated and considerably extended a work by please by Luigi Menabrea about a general-purpose mechanical computer designed by Charles Babbage, his unbuilt analytical engine. The substantial appendices written by Ada Lovelace contain an account of the principles of the machine and a table often described as “the first computer programme”. Lovelace presents the machine, not in terms of ironmongery, but as what we would now call an “abstract machine”, describing the functions of memory, CPU, registers, loops and so on.

What is truly remarkable to the modern computer scientist is her high-level view. She understands the complexity of programming, the difficulty of checking correctness and the need for programme optimisation. She reflects on the power of abstraction, how the machine might “weave algebraical patterns”, how it might work with quantities other than number and its potential for creativity. In what Turing later described as “Lady Lovelace’s objection” to whether machines can think, she observed that: “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform.”

Read more.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.