June 5 was the 178th anniversary of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage’s first meeting, the birth of a decades-long collaboration on computer hardware and software that nearly launched the computer age a century sooner than actually happened. Oh, and also, it inspired the name for a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture 177 years later. Sydney Padua had some great anecdotes and links in her Twitter feed, first to InfoStory’s post on their first meeting:
James Gleick writes in The Information: Babbage saw a sparkling, self-possessed young woman with porcelain features and a notorious name, who managed to reveal that she knew more mathematics than most men graduating from university. She saw an imposing forty-one-year-old, authoritative eyebrows anchoring his strong-boned face, who possessed wit and charm and did not wear these qualities lightly. He seemed a kind of visionaryâ€“just what she was seeking. She admired the machine, too.”
In honour of the occasion, Sydney Padua, designer of the limited edition 2D Goggles print available to our Analytical Engineer donors, tweeted that she put the finishing touches to the print. The limited edition run of 25 signed prints is now nearly two thirds gone, with 9 prints remaining for Analytical Engineer level donations. Donate now to receive one of the remaining prints.
Sydney also told a tweet-story about Mary Sommerville, the nineteenth century science writer at whose party Lovelace and Babbage met:
Today’s factoid: Lovelace met Babbage not at one of his famous parties, but at mutual friend Mary Sommerville’s.
Mary Sommerville— I’m trying to find a good spot in comic for her; she’s sort of Yoda to Ada’s Luke.
She literally wrote the book on Calculus and had a bust in the Royal Society, but she couldn’t see it because she wasn’t allowed in.
Being a woman and all, she would have gotten cooties on their Science.
Anyways Sommerville College in Oxford is named after her.
When they put her bust in the RS they had a big meeting over should they invite her, and she very tactfully said she couldn’t come anyways.
Thanks to all of our donors and supporters for helping us create a space for women in technology that Ada Lovelace and Mary Sommerville never had.