Historiography of Ada Augusta Lovelace
In this new 21st century we share an image of a computer programmer best epitomized by that wunder-geek, Bill Gates. Few people would guess the individual long considered the first computer programmer was a woman, strikingly beautiful, brilliant, passionate, the daughter of the famous English poet, Lord Byron. Her name was Ada Augusta Byron, the Countess of Lovelace. Born in 1815, Ada had the genius and vision to see the possibilities for computers that none of her contemporaries, male or female, could see. In the computing community the image of Ada is well known. Indeed, the Defense Department’s programming language for its most “mission critical” projects is named, ADA, in honor of the Countess of Lovelace. Many software vendors and magazines uses Ada’s image to sell software today. But it is this very image of Ada Lovelace that has changed over time. Beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing into the new millennium, the image of Ada Augusta, the Countess of Lovelace has changed radically as has society’s vision of women. Could this radical change be a reflection of the Feminist movement with its peak in the late 1970’s and its descent in the 1980’s? Is Ada’s deteriorating image part of a Feminist backlash? In order to answer these questions a historiography of Ada Lovelace is essential. Where and when did these greatly contrasting images of Ada originate and who were the authors?
Comments 5 comments
Great Video Explanation of the Babbage and Lovelace story.
Lord Byron and Ada's FamilyClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ada! Sole Daughter of My House and Heart?
To begin with, the first image of Ada, her first mention in history, starts with the day of her birth. She was famous from the beginning of her life, because of the infamous separation of her parents and her more infamous father, the bad and beautiful Lord Byron. According to Byron scholar, Doris Langley Moore, less than a year after Ada’s birth and the separation, Byron had “in busy circulation seven thousand copies of a poem beginning:
Is thy face like thy mother’s my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted, . . . 
Like the children of many celebrities, and Lord Byron was truly one of the first English celebrities, Ada was held under a microscope for a long time by society. Crowds would often gather when she was a baby to see this child of Bryon for themselves. Many in society, including her own mother, were constantly on the lookout for evidence of the mad, bad Byron family inheritance developing in Ada. Her mother put her on a strict regimen of study with tickets as rewards and a strong emphasis in mathematics as a way to combat the wayward Byron genes.  Even geography was considered too romantic and dangerous a subject and when Ada developed an early enthusiasm for it, her mother dismissed Ada’s tutor. Although the adult Ada, once freed from her mother’s influence, developed a wide variety of interests including poetry and music, it was the strong background in mathematics that enabled Ada to make her contribution to history.
 Lord Byron quoted in Doris Langley Moore, Ada, Countess of Lovelace: Byron’s Legitimate Daughter, (South Hampton: Camelot Press, 1977), 5.
 Doris Langley Moore, 11.
A Life and a Legacy, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987), 24.
Menabrea - Notes on the Analytical Engine
Ada's contribution was a translation with notes from the French of an article written by the Italian engineer, Menabrea, to explain the workings of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. This machine, designed in 1836, was one of the most marvelous inventions of the nineteenth century. It was at least one hundred years ahead of its time and according to Babbage specialist Doron Swade, “What is simply astonishing is that the designs for the Analytical Engine embody in their mechanical and logical detail just about every major principle of the modern digital computer.”  If Babbage had been able to get funding from Peel’s Tory government, it would have indeed been the first true computer, not a calculator, but a true computer complete with punch cards. Scientists today believe it would have worked. Unfortunately, as author Benjamin Woolley states, “Peel thought it a worthless device, its only conceivable use being to work out exactly how little benefit it would be to science.” Babbage had been able to get funding for the predecessor of the Analytical Engine, his Difference Engine, and a portion of it had been built in 1832. However, during the famous Great Exhibition of 1851 when six million visitors came to see the highlights of international science and industry celebrated, Babbage’s creation was not readily to be found. According to author John McLeish, “It was tucked away in a basement and almost inaccessible to visitors, as though it were a state secret. It made little impression.”
 Doron Swade, The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer, (New York: Penguin), 94.
 Benjamin Woolley, The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason and Byron’s Daughter, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999), 265.
 John McLeish, Yhe Story of Numbers: How Mathematics Has Shaped Civilization, (New York: Fawcett Columbine New York, 1991), 197.
Although the Analytical Engine did not get much attention, Ada's translation and notes made at Babbage's request received a great deal of attention. These were published in 1843 in Taylor’s Scientific Memoirs under the name of A.A.Lovelace. Taylor’s Scientific Memoirs was a new journal that printed translations of scientific articles from foreign journals. What made Ada famous was not the translation, however, but the notes that accompanied the translation. Ada was a long time friend of Babbage’s and she understood his Analytical Engine better than anyone else of the time. Babbage had a circle of brilliant scientists and mathematicians as friends, such as Faraday and De Morgan, but none of them truly understood or appreciated the Analytical Engine in the way that Ada did. Even the Italian, Menabrea, who had written the original article, did not understand the full implications of this first computer. Ada did, however, and that is why Babbage asked her to write the notes that accompanied the translation. These are often referred to as the Memoir or the Notes in the literature on the Analytical Engine and will be referred to as the Notes in this paper. Ada’s Notes were three times the size of Menebrea’s original article and included what is considered a sample computer program to demonstrate the usefullness of the Analytical Engine.
 Woolley, 265.
Charles Babbage, Creator of the Analytical Engine
Babbage, the creator of this nineteenth century marvel, is also the man most responsible for Ada’s lingering fame. Charles Babbage, according to biographer Anthony Hyman, “was the child of two revolutions: industrial revolution in Britain, and political and social revolution in France.” He was first and foremost a mathematician, but he was also an inventor and reformer. Hyman says of him, “Babbage knew virtually all the liberal reformers of his time; and as leading man of science was a respected figure among them.” Babbage also believed according to historian Paul Johnson, that “women made better mathematicians than did men.” So it is not surprising that this innovative and radical thinker would be able to recognize Ada Lovelace’s ability. He called her his “much admired Interpreter” and the “Enchantress of Numbers.” He was so impressed with her first notes for the article in Taylor’s that he wrote to her saying, “All this was impossible for you to know by intuition and the more I read your notes the more surprised I am at them and regret not having earlier explored so rich a vein of the noblest metal.” In his autobiography, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, Babbage states that he suggested to Ada that she write the Notes for the Menabrea article, but that the work was indeed her own. He did help her, he admits, with working out the math of the Bernouilli numbers, but then she corrected a serious mistake that he made in these computations. He continues,
“The notes of the Countess of Lovelace extend to about three times the length of the original memoir. Their author has entered fully into almost all the very difficult and abstract questions connected with the subject.”
 Anthony Hyman, Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983), 2.
 Paul Johnson, The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830, (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 563.
 Charles Babbage quoted in Betty A. Toole, Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers, 236.
 Charles Babbage quoted in Betty A. Toole, Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers, 197.
 Charles Babbage, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994), 102.
Who Wrote the Notes?
The difficult question to ask of Babbage is what would have motivated him to include this passage giving Ada credit for the Notes, if in actuality he had written them himself? This has been speculated on by such recent authors as Collier and Holt, who believe that Babbage used Ada to give some glamour to his creation. They believe he may have attempted to use her fame as Byron’s daughter and her position as Countess to get funding for the Analytical Engine. It is true that Babbage was very interested in the fame and glory he felt were long overdue him, however, he was not a very politically astute man. Moreover, Ada was principally his very good friend who was one of the few people who understood and appreciated the creation that he had spent his lifetime developing. Some authors have even stated that Ada understood his creation better than Babbage himself. This is just speculation, but what is known is that Ada understood and saw the possibilities of Babbage’s machines from the very beginning, when she was just seventeen and so many other people were completely mystified by these machines. 
 Moore, 42.
The Age of Enlightenment
It is no wonder people were mystified. Machines, new machines, locomotives, steam engines of all sorts, were everywhere it seemed. They became a constant theme in this post revolutionary, revolutionary time. The French Revolution had exploded across the face of Europe some forty years earlier in 1789. Scientists and mathematicians who were no longer constrained by the powers of the Church came up with radical new ideas, insights, and inventions. These inventions further fueled the Industrial Revolution which had also started in the 1780’s but which took off in the nineteenth century. Though Babbage was very much a part of this Industrial Revolution, he was rooted in the philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment that had helped bring about the French Revolution.
The revolutionary ideas of the Enlightenment which caused many ideas to be examined in a fresh light even illumined the plight of women, and in 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the first feminist treatise, Vindication of the Rights of Woman. This was just one of many revolutionary ideas that formed the backdrop of the era that Babbage and Lovelace lived in. When Babbage encouraged Ada and she wrote her Notes in 1843, there were not many women who studied mathematics, but there were others. Furthermore, only five years later the first Women’s Rights Convention met in Seneca Falls, New York. The joining of many revolutionary ideas that were part of the world that Babbage and Lovelace lived in is important for understanding the attitude and accomplishments of both. Ada’s Notes and Babbage’s Analytical Engine both spring from the same revolutionary era in which the Feminist movement began.
 Johnson, 188.
Early Twentieth Century Computing
Not an era, but a century elapsed before Ada came back in the limelight. Computers were not deemed necessary until World War II. The designers of the new computers in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s were the first to notice and write about Ada. These first electronic computers were not significantly different than the mechanical computer Babbage had designed. Many of the early computer designers went back and researched Babbage’s papers and books. In these they were surprised to find Ada, a woman and the daughter of Lord Byron, a seemingly modern mind staring back at them from a century before.
Of these designers, arguably the most brilliant, was the English mathematician, Alan Turing. Turing is famous in mathematical and computer circles for the concept of the universal Turing machine, a digital computer prototype, and his work on breaking the German’s secret Enigma code during World War II. The breaking of this code may have shortened the war by as much as two years. Turing did this with the aid of the Colossus, the first electronic computer, in 1943.
 B. Jack Copeland and Diane Proudfoot, Alan Turing’s Forgotten Ideas in Computer Science, Scientific American (April 1999),99-101.
 McLeish, 221.
Alan Turing was an eccentric, brilliant mathematician who expanded the horizons of mathematics and the brand new field of computing. In his study of mathematics he came across the writings of Ada and Babbage. Turing was among many other things the founder of what is now called AI, or Artifical Intelligence. He wondered whether a computer could think like a human being, would it be capable of original thought? It must have seemed strange to find an answer from one hundred years before. But Ada had written in her Notes this famous quote, “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform.” Ada was concerned that the Analytical Engine might be misunderstood by the Victorian world and erroneously given miraculous powers. She had stated in her Notes earlier:
"It is desirable to guard against the possibility of exaggerated ideas that might arise as to the powers of the Analytical Engine. In considering any new subject, there is frequently a tendency, first, to overrate what we find to be already interesting or remarkable; and secondly, by a sort of natural reaction, to undervalue the true state of the case, when we discover that our notions have surpassed those that were really tenable."
In many respects, her comments and her
understanding of computing seem very modern.
 quoted in Betty A. Toole, Ada, Enchantress of Numbers, 257.
 quoted in Betty A. Toole, 257.
The "Lovelace Objection"
Turing, over one hundred years later in 1950, said of Ada in an article published in Mind, “Our most detailed information of Babbage's Analytical Engine comes from a memoir by Lady Lovelace.” However, Turing disagreed with Ada and believed that computers could become so advanced that it would be impossible to tell the difference between the output from a computer program and a conversation with a human being. Turing termed Ada’s comment, the “Lovelace Objection” as it is known in computing circles today. Although Turing disagreed with Ada, he treated her opinions with respect and gave her credit for producing the most detailed analysis of Babbage’s work. BenjaminWoolley, the author of the latest biography of Ada, has speculated that Ada was just a Lisa-Marie Presley used to glamorize Babbage’s invention. If this was the case Turing would not have bothered to address Ada’s objection.  Because of Turing’s mention of the Lovelace Objection, Ada Lovelace is again at the forefront of computing circles and her opinions that were voiced over one hundred years ago are taught and argued about in questions of Artificial Intelligence today.
Andrew Hodges, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence by A.M. Turing”, accessed 5 May 2003; available from http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/test.html>; Internet.
 Jim Holt, The Ada Perplex”, New Yorker, accessed 5 March 2001; available from <http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?010305crbo_Holt_Books_C.html>; Internet.
Douglas R. Hartree
Another computer designer of the post World War II era who wrote about Ada was Douglas R. Hartree, Plummer Professor of Mathematical Physics at University of Cambridge. Hartree became involved in the design and use of one of the first computers, the Eniac machine built in 1946. Hartree learned of Ada from reading the notes she had written explaining Babbage’s Anayltical Engine. Hartree says of Ada, “Some of her comments sound remarkably modern.” He also states that she “seems to have an uncanny ability to see how computing problems need to be set forth.”
The early computer designers were surprised at how much thought had to go into programming their new creations. Originally, they had thought it would be very simple process without any problems. Seeing that Ada had addressed some of the same difficulties they were running into, only she had done this one hundred years earlier for a machine that had never been built, many of them developed a great appreciation for Ada’s work. Hartree asked how could she “have such a clear and detailed appreciation of the project as her notes show; it must be remembered that nothing of this machine had been constructed at the time.” Hartree then answered his own question by stating, “She must have been a mathematician of some ability.” Hartree, like many other early computer designers of the 1930 thru 1950’s marveled at how modern Ada seemed.
 Hartree, 70.
Feminist Movement - 1940 on
The fact that Ada was female did not seem to enter into any of the discussions of her merit or abilities during this era. The world had gone through two World Wars where women had contributed greatly to the efforts of their nations. Many women had worked during both World Wars to help their countries. Most of the grateful nations of the world gave women the right to vote by the end of World War II and many had already done so by the end of World War I. Garnering the right to vote, concluded the first wave of the Feminist Movement that had started shortly before Ada’s death in the 1850’. Women’s contribution to the war effort now laid the ground work for the second phase of the Feminist Movement, the one that would become famous in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Lord Bowden - "Faster Than Thought"
However, the Feminist Movement was in a slump in the 1950’s, when another man marveled at how modern Ada seemed. This was Lord Bowden, Principal of Manchester College of Science and Technology in England. More importantly, he was the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science in 1964-65. He is also considered the first computer salesperson. Bowden is credited with creating the myth of Ada. Bowden wrote a famous book, Faster Than Thought, in 1953 to highlight the history and the abilities of the new computers. The purpose behind the book was to help Bowden sell computers.
The frontispiece of the book has a lovely portrait of Ada and within the book he is unabashedly positive about Lady Lovelace. He mentions the quote from the famous mathematician, De Morgan, who tutored Ada in mathematics and said according to Bowden, “her aptitude for grasping the strong points and the real difficulties of first principles would have lowered her chance of being senior wrangler, but would have made her into an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first rate eminence.”
Not only did Bowden read the memoir or Notes on the Analytic Engine that the previous authors had read, but he also had access to Ada’s letter through her granddaughter, Lady Wentworth. According to Bowden the Menabrea paper shows Ada had “a most remarkable understanding of Babbage’s ideas, which she explained far more clearly than Babbage ever did.”  Bowden is also the first to call Ada’s examples in her Notes a “program".  This may be where the story that Ada was the first computer programmer started, although Bowden does not make that statement in Faster Than Thought.
Bowden, however, seems much less modern than Ada when he discounts the possibility of computer music that Ada speculated on in 1843. Ada remarked in her Notes,
"If the fundamental relations of sounds in the science of harmony and musical composition were susceptible of adaptation to the notation and mechanism of the Engine, it might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity and extent."
Bowden is very skeptical, though,
about the future of computer music and writes about the very expensive
production of computer music in 1951 with the Manchester University
computer. Bowden’s response to Ada’s
statement is, “On the whole it seems probable that this technique will have no
other applications than the amusement of the programmers and their friends at
With so much time, space, and debate spent today on music done via the
statement seems quite visionary and much more modern than Bowden’s
Morgan quoted in Lord Bowden, Faster Than Thought, (New York: Pitman,
 Bowden, 19.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ada Lovelace quoted in Bowden , 76.
 Bowden, 76.
First Computer Programmer - 1960's
What neither Bowden nor Ada could have envisioned, however, started ten years after Bowden wrote Faster than Thought. The Feminist Movement took off with the launching of two items, Sputnik in 1957 and Betty Freidan’s, The Feminine Mystique in 1963. It was further propelled by items as disparate as President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of Women and the advent of the birth control pill in 1960. By 1970 the Women’s Movement had become a powerful force in America. As part of the movement, feminists attempted to correct the male biases of history books by finding women scientist and mathematicians to celebrate. Ada Lovelace was soon elevated to the position of first computer programmer and over time she became a “feminist icon”.
Bruce Collier and "the most overrated figure in history of computing"
Some began to contest the new acclaim that Ada received. Bruce Collier is considered a Babbage expert and wrote his Harvard PhD dissertation, The Little Engine that Could’ve, on Babbage in 1970. He reissued this book in 1990 with an additional preface. Collier was a Harvard professor of science history and also Assistant Dean of HarvardCollege. He had the opportunity to be one of the first people to see Babbage’s original technical papers in 1967 when they were unpacked from the warehouse where they had been stored since World War II. 
As an expert on Babbage, Collier tends to be dismissive of Ada’s contributions. His sources are, like most authors, the Menabrea translation and Notes. In 1970, Collier writes that Ada gets too much credit for designing the Analytical Engine. He states,
" Although it is clear that Lady Lovelace was a woman of considerable interest and talent, and it is clear that she understood to a very considerable degree Babbage’s ideas about the general character and significance of the Analytical Engine, and expressed them well in her notes to Menabrea’s paper, it is equally clear that the ideas were indeed Babbage’s and not hers; indeed, she never made any claims to the contrary." 
In addition, Collier makes it
appear that Menabrea wrote the Notes. He mentions Menabrea’s statement on page
182 and on page 183 prints some of Ada’s Notes,
forgetting to mention they were written by Ada. It is true that earlier he states that Ada wrote the Notes, but
the lack of heading or credit leads a less cautious reader to believe that
Menabrea wrote the Notes also. Collier is also disturbed by the “amazingly
arrogant remarks” that Ada
had made about her abilities. 
However, this is mild compared to the statements Collier makes in the new preface of 1990:
"It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that Babbage wrote the “Notes” to Meanabrea’s paper, but for reasons of his own encouraged the illusion in the minds of Ada and the public that they were authored by her. It is no exaggeration to say that she was a manic depressive with the most amazing delusions about her talents, and rather shallow understanding of both Charles Babbage and the Analytical Engine."
Collier directly contradicts in
1990 what he said about Ada’s
understanding of the Analytical Engine in 1970. Furthermore, he adds that “To
me, this familiar material seems to make obvious once again that Ada was mad as a hatter,
and contributed little more to the “Notes” than trouble.And
finally he concludes his paragraph on Ada
with this, “I guess someone has to be the most overrated figure in the
history of computing.”
Obviously something radically changed in the time period between 1970 and 1990.
Collier, The Little Engine That Could’ve, (New York: Garland, 1990),
 Ibid., 180.
 Ibid., 184.
 Collier, preface.
Ada, the Legitimate Daughter
In this time period, new biographers started writing about Ada with more emphasis on her personality, her family, and her flaws, rather than her contributions to the understanding of the Analytical Engine. As Ada became more well known writers started looking at her letters in more detail.
One of the first of these is Doris Langley Moore, a Byron specialist , who wrote Ada, Countess of Lovelace: Byron’s Legitimate Daughter. The title says a great deal about the book most of which deals with the controversy over the separation of Byron and Lady Byron and the sordid story of Ada’s cousin/half-sister, Medora. Moore brings in more of the gossip about Byron. She does not have the technical background to evaluate Ada’a contribution. She admits this saying “I have used Babbage’s own words on the joint production of Ada and Menabrea because I am not equipped to make any judgment of my own.” She does however include many allegations that Ada was addicted to opium, and laudanum, and that these made Ada at times delusional. Her sources are Ada’s letters, however, none of these state that Ada was addicted. None of Moore’s other sources directly say that Ada was addicted to any of these substances either. They do say that she did use these drugs, but many people of the Victorian age did. Moore’s other sources are her knowledge of Byron’s addictive and compulsive behavior which she conjectures Ada inherited.
Moore’s final conclusion is that perhaps if Ada had been born one hundred years later her life would have been more fruitful. She speculates that perhaps her father’s infamy would have been more bearable and her mother would have been less neurotic? She wonders if Ada would indeed have had a career. Finally, she states that Ada’s life proves that “we may, after this sad backward glance, find some cause for gladness in the changes time had brought us.”
 Moore, 159.
 Moore, 363.
ADA and the Defense Department
One of the changes that time brought at this time was a new name for the American Defense Department’s programming language. Originally called “greenman” or “strawman”, it was changed to ADA in 1980 to honor Ada Lovelace. Furthermore in 1984, “ADA” became a trademark of the American Department of Defense. At the same time this recognition and the advertising that went with it drew criticism from many writers. It was as if a giant bullseye was drawn around the image of Ada saying – shoot here.
Stien: Opium and Porphyria
One of the first to take aim was Dorothy Stein who wrote her classic book Ada, A Life and a Legacy in 1985. Stein is a psychologist who also has training in physics and was a computer programmer in the 1950’s. In writing this book Stein’s goal was to find disease. There is a great deal of discussion of the various illnesses that Ada had. Stein speculates Ada may have suffered from some sort of porphyria like King George that came from Lord Byron’s Scottish royal connection. However, after doing research Stein could not successfully find a royal link in either Lord Byron or Lady Byron’s family, but still insisted that “porphyria remains an intriguing hypothesis – one of course that neither Ada nor her contemporaries ever entertained.”
But Stein continues with searching for disease and devotes one whole appendix to “Unnatural Feelings Mental and Bodily” to discuss the various symptoms and diseases she feels Ada suffered. Stein also wonders if Ada’s chronic ill health accounted for her “inability to realize her early intellectual promise”?  She again mentions the porphyria and that Charles Darwin had similar symptoms that she believes could also have been porphyria. Not looking at what Ada did well, but at her aberrations, she further conjectures that Ada was “manic depressive” from Ada’s own description of her mania. However, Stein admits that in the time period Ada wrote in ,”the term ‘mania’ of course was sometimes loosely used, as it still is, to mean an enthusiasm judged excessive, rather than clinical insanity.”
Stein also deals with Moore’s supposition that Ada’s use of opium made her delusional and brought about Ada’s “mania”. Stein says of Moores’ theory, “This, however, is to misunderstand the social climate in which opium was taken in the nineteenth century, its medicinal purposes, and its effects on users.”  Opium was frequently used at this time even for babies as it tended to quiet people down, not make them manic or delusional as Moore suggested. Stein believes, the best combined diagnosis for both Ada’s physical symptoms, which were many, and her mental symptoms is again porphyria. ” 
Stein’s background in physics allowed her to look at Ada’s knowledge of mathematics with more skepticism than Moore. Because of this Stein was able to determine that the secret code that Moore conjectured Ada used was just a correspondence course in calculus. Stein is also the first biographer to question Ada’s mathematical abilities and to suggest that Ada was just an enthusiastic beginner in mathematics and did not show any particular gift for the subject.
Steins also wonders why Ada, someone of such early promise, did not produce more. She looks at the possibility that disease, prejudice against women, or inherent lack of mathematical ability in women account for this failure. Her conclusion to all these speculations is no, it was not disease, prejudice, or inherent lack of mathematical ability in women. She gives as counter example to Ada the case of Mary Somerville, a brilliant mathematician of the time who was Ada’s friend and teacher, and who left a legacy of many mathematical works. Stein neglects to mention, however, that Somerville lived until the age of ninety-two and that most of her work was not started until after she reached the age of forty-five. To compare Ada’s output to Somerville’s when Ada died at the age of thirty-six, is discounting how productive those intervening fifty years might have been for Ada. Nevertheless, Stein believes that Ada was just not that talented and states, “We can only be touched and awed by the questing spirit that induced her to launch so slight a craft upon such deep waters.”
The slight craft on the deep waters may only be part of Stein’s purpose in writing her book, however. In a telephone interview with journalist Lori Miller after publication of Ada, A life and Legacy, Stein said,
The information-technology industry uses Ada as a kind of mascot to disguise what is really a bad situation for women in the field. She is being made into a cult heroine for feminists, and this deflects from the real lessons her life had for women – among them, that not even intelligence and social status permit escape from the “the condition of being a woman in society”.
Furthermore, Stein adds in an article written for Computing Reviews the true reason the Defense Department named their new language ADA has nothing to do with Ada Lovelace’s contribution to computing, but
the military are merely following a medieval knightly tradition in which an attractive upper-class woman is used as a mascot to soften and romanticise the business of war. The use of Ada’s name and image also helps to paper over the conditions of women in the information technology field.
Steins dismissive take on Ada’s abilities and accomplishments may have less to do with Ada and more to do with Stein’s need to make a statement about the status of women in the computing industry.
 Stein, 293.
 Ibid., 281.
 Ibid., 287.
 Stein, 288.
 Ibid., xii.
 Ibid., 280.
 Tracy Kidder, “Less (and More) Meets the Eye”, Dorothy Stein: Ada, Die Braut der Wissenschaft – Besprechungen, accessed 5 May 2003; available from <http://www.txt.de/kv-kadmos/SteinP.html>; Internet.
Dorothy Stein, “Ada’s Propaganda Machine”, Dorothy Stein: Ada, Die Braut der Wissenschaft – Besprechungen, accessed 5 May 2003; available from <http://www.txt.de/kv-kadmos/SteinP.html>; Internet.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Astarte" about the Lord Byron scandal.
Ada and Lord Byron Scandal
Brief additional notes September 2013:
Ada was not forgotten in history though. Many biographies of her famous father, Lord Byron, mentioned her. The family controversy and celebrity continued into the next generation and was well remembered by many. In 1888, Harriet Beecher Stowe came out with the famous allegation that Ada’s mother had confessed that the reason for her separation from Lord Byron had been because he had committed incest with his half-sister, Augusta, the aunt that Ada was named after.
In the family, Ada’s son, Ralph, wrote a book, Astarte, condemning Lord Byron and exonerating Ada’s mother, , who had raised Ralph for the most part. Ada’s daughter, became a famous horse woman and eventually there were members of the nobility who had Ada’s letters and remembered her accomplishments. These Lords and their letters were the sources that would be used to form the first public opinions of Ada for the twentieth century.
Backlash, The Undeclared War Against American Women
And in the mid 1980’s when Stein wrote, many new statements were made about the status of women. According to author Susan Faludi who wrote Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, the 1980’s saw a reaction against feminism that was inspired in part by the New Right and the Reagan Revolution and accomplished by the news media. According to Faludi, “The press delivered the backlash to the public through a series of ‘trend stories’. . .” Faludi goes on to describe the new “trend journalism”
"Trend journalism attains authority not through actual reporting but through the power of repetition. Said enough times, anything can be made to seem true. A trend declared in one publication sets off a chain reaction, as the rest of the media scramble to get the story, too. The lightning speed at which these messages spread has less to do with the accuracy of the trend than with journalists propensity to repeat one another. And repetition became especially hard to avoid in the ‘80’s, as the independent press fell into a very few corporate hands."
The backlash against Feminism was not a concerted organized effort according to Faludi, but was fueled in some part by the “culture machine that is always looking for a ‘fresh’ angle.” Could this be part of what was happening to Ada Lovelace’s image in the 1980’s? The image of Ada as heroine and first progammer had indeed become old news and had been spread through the culture with the Defense Department’s re-naming of their language, ADA. With a newer negative attitude towards women’s accomplishments and a more skeptical attitude toward those women portrayed as “feminist icons”, it is no wonder that the press on Ada after the 1980’s became more negative.
 Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, (New York: Crown Publishers, 1991) 79.
 Ibid., xxii.
Photo of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Photo of Mary Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and author of "Frankenstien."
Brief Additional Notes September 2013
A beginning of sorts for Ada and for the historians who would write about her
Ada stands in the nexus between the new modern age and the old. The infamous divorce between her parents represents the split between the modern world, of science, mathematics and reason, with the romantic, gothic-horror world of her father, Lord Byron.
Is it not interesting that Mary Wollstonecraft, the first feminist tract writer, author of “The Vindication of the Rights of Women” published in 1792, lived in Paris during the French Revolution. The even more interesting bit is her daughter, Mary Shelley is the author of “Frankenstein”, one of the first writers to talk about the potential horrors of this post-revolutionary world of science and reason.
The tragedy of Ada’s life is that she had cancer and that is simply it. Her life was cut tragically short at 36. If she had lived longer she might have produced a great deal more, like Mary Summerville, her tutor. Female mathematicians, unlike male mathematicians, are most productive in their later years after the responsibilities of child-rearing are over. Ada did not have the luxury of many years but she did have the genius to see hundreds of years ahead of her time.
Doron Swade and The Difference Engine
The next author to write about Ada, Doron Swade shows this. Swade is an engineer and historian of technology, born in South Africa but living in London and a leading authority on the life and work of Babbage. He has been on both radio and TV to discuss the history of computing. More importantly, he was the driving force behind to project to build a Difference Engine in 1991 the bicentennial anniversary of Babbage’s birth.
In 1992, Swade wrote, The Difference Engine, to tell the story of Babbage’s drive to build his computing machines and Swade’s own quest to build a copy of Difference Engine II for the anniversary celebration of Babbage’s birth. He wrote this book in part to promote the Difference Engine that he built but also to argue that Babbage was an important contributor to the history of computing. He uses among his sources, Bruce Collier’s thesis, The Little Engine that Could’ve, mentioned above, Hyman’s Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer, Bromley’s work on Babbage’s life, and Betty Toole’s Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers. He also uses Babbage’s notebooks and letters.
Of Ada, Swade has this to say, “She is celebrated as a woman who had apparently defied the oppression of her sex to make a mark in a man’s world, and the need for such champions has regrettably distorted her contribution.” His most cutting remark, however, is this:
"Her taste for mystical speculation was not burdened either by any great mathematical knowledge or by any specific understanding of the mechanics of the machine, leaving her free to speculate about the potential of the Analytical Engine. She provided some fine literary touches. "
He also includes the whole 1990 preface quote of Bruce Collier that Swade admits “savages” Ada and that further repeats the theme that Ada had a shallow understanding of the Analytical Engine. He makes no mention that in 1970 Collier stated Ada had a “very considerable degree of understanding for the Analytical Engine.” It is obvious that what is happening here is a repetition of the same dismissal of Ada’s abilities, whether this true or not. The is Faludi’s theme in Backlash. If the media repeats something often enough it will be deemed true, whether it is or not. There is also the repetition of Stein’s dismissal of Ada’s mathematical abilities, which were never questioned by De Morgan, the brilliant mathematician who was Ada’s tutor, or Babbage himself.
Swade does however, give Ada more credit than Collier and says of Ada’s sketch or notes that “it remains highly revealing of contemporary thinking about automatic computing machines. More specifically the ‘Sketch’ include statements that from a modern perspective appear visionary.” In conclusion he feels that arguments about Ada’s pretended greatness have clouded over her real contributions. According to Swade who is a Babbage expert, even Babbage did not get the modern idea that Ada grasped readily – that the power and the possibility in computing is in manipulating symbols or objects not just numbers.However positive this statement, Swade does not seem to see the contradiction between this and his earlier dismissive statement about Ada’s understanding of the Analytical Engine or her mathematical knowledge.
 Swade, 169.
 Ibid., 166.
 Ibid., 168.
 Swade, 169.
Dr. Betty A. Toole - "Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers"
The next author to write about Ada, Betty A. Toole, is someone who understands about computing and the power and possibility of manipulating symbols as she was co-owner of a Silicon Valley company and developed training programs in both the private and public sectors. She is the great Ada scholar who spent eight years of her life reading and studying Ada’s letters. Toole has a PhD in Education and teaches computer science. As an educator she is interested in how people learn and process information. In her book Toole ponders whether Ada’s gift was the ability to use both sides of her mind, what Toole calls the mathematical and the poetical, to see the world and its possibilities? She also wonders if this is the reason previous readers of Ada’ letters have had difficulty understanding and appreciating Ada’s approach to math and the Analytical Engine? Toole does believe this is Ada’s gift and that this ability is what helped make Ada so visionary. Her book, Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron’s Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer written in 1992, uses Ada’s letters to tell the story of her life.
Through the use of the letters Toole allows Ada’s character to shine through. From a very early age, it is obvious that Ada was brilliant and had a very creative mind. By the age of thirteen she was designing flying machines and talking about writing a book on “Flyology illustrated with plates”. Toole, in speaking of Ada’s young attempt to design a flying machine, says that “Ada’s imaginative approach was scientifically sound. Many of Ada’s ideas for flying in 1828 predate Henson’s design for an aerial steam carriage in 1842.”
Toole also addresses the questions that many other authors had raised about Ada. The first of these is whether Ada wrote the Menabrea Notes or not. Some modern authors have intimated that Ada functioned more like a glamorous secretary. Toole states that “Babbage in his autobiography clearly stated that Ada wrote the Notes based on the material he gave her.” Her selection of Ada’s letters also shows that Ada was working very hard on these Notes developing methods for explaining the Analytical Engine. In addition, these letters also show it was Ada who came up with idea of using an elementary computer program to demonstrate the engine’s features. Toole also has noticed the way the letters integrate into the Notes which convinces Toole that there is no question that Ada wrote the Notes.
Toole states of Ada, “She was always questioning and trying to discover the reason for her own existence, a path she termed Poetical Science.” This Poetical Science is a mind set that integrates both the romantic and the scientific frame of minds, one that Toole believes we could use today. She sees Ada Lovelace as a possible “bridge to the future.”
 Ada Lovelace quoted by Toole , 32.
 Toole, 29.
 Toole, 195.
 Ibid., 19.
Benjamin Wooley - "The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter"
The next author is one who is interested in the future and cyberspace. Benjamin Woolley is a writer and broadcaster who lives in London and wrote The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter in 1999. He also uses as sources many of Ada’s letters. Wooley sees Ada’s life as a heroic struggle of a mind that sought to combine both poetry and science when they were in the process of being irretrievably torn apart as the Romantic Movement collided with the Scientific and Industrial Revolution. Wooley says, “Ada came to embody these new polarities. She struggled to reconcile them and they tore her apart.” Wooley’s looks at how Ada’s birth put her at the nexus of this conflict. He wonders how she managed to navigate her life between these two polarities in a time period when so much was changing?
Wooley also addresses whether Ada wrote the Notes for the Menebrea paper. He believes that she did. Wooley mentions that Babbage did not want to return one of Ada’s Notes, Note ‘A’, because Babbage wrote “It demonstrated, he felt , a depth of understanding that even he had not anticipated.” Wooley believes this was by far the most important of the Notes. Furthermore, he gives evidence that Ada wrote the other Notes also. However, he believes she only modified the computer program that Babbage had written earlier to do the Bernouilli numbers. Therefore, he does not believe she is the first computer programmer, but that Babbage was. However, none of Babbage’s previous programs had been published.  Accordingly, Ada would then be the first published programmer.
In discussing the Notes, Wooley speaks of how remarkable it was of Babbage to suggest Ada write the Notes and how remarkable it was for her to write them and have them published. Wooley further adds:
"How could a woman, a countess whose only claim to fame thus far was that her father was a poet, possibly be the best candidate for such a task? In more contemporary terms, it would be like nominating Lisa-Marie Presley to annotate a study of quantum computation."
However demeaning some have taken that remark to be, Woolley finds Ada Lovelace a remarkable woman, but one whose attempts he says to “find that ‘poetical science’ were doomed.” His conclusion is an answer to Betty Toole’s book, for instead of feeling that Ada is a visionary who embodies a future where science and poetry will be united, Wooley speculates that it may be just the opposite . Wooley wonders if “her life foreshadowed the very reverse, the view that so-called progress leads only to greater polarization.”
 Woolley, 2.
 Babbage qutoed by Woolley , 267.
 Woolley, 269.
 Ibid., 260.
 Ibid., 377.
 Ibid., 377.
Jim Holt - "The Ada Perplex" 2001
In speaking of Ada, however, the most polarized opinion is that expressed by the journalist Jim Holt. Holt is journalist who writes science articles and book reviews for the New Yorker. In March of 2001 he wrote a book review of Bride of Science by Benjamin Woolley. Holt is glad to see Woolley take down Ada’s reputation a notch. Furthermore, Holt has a much more dismissive attitude towards Ada, than Woolley. Holt says of Ada,
“Like her father, she could be “mad” and “bad”: hysteria-prone and often opium-addled, a compulsive gambler and a lusty coquette.” 
If the media says it, it must be true, therefore Holt also insists that, “Despite her long immersion in mathematics, Ada’s correspondence shows that she was still unable to do the most elementary trigonometry.” Of Ada’s contribution to the Menebrea Notes, Holt says, “It is doubtful whether Ada herself ‘originated’ any of the ideas contained in her notes, except perhaps some of the more exuberantly speculative ones.  This is interesting in a book review where the book being reviewed, Bride of Science, states what an important role Ada had in developing the Notes.
Holt also uses Moore and Stein as well as Woolley for sources. He approves of Stein’s biography because he feels she did a good job of contrasting “ the grandiosity of Ada’s aspirations with the modesty of her gifts and the slimness of her output.”
Holt’s conclusion after reading Woolley’s book is that the first computer programmer was Jaquard who came up with the punched-card idea that Babbage used in the Analytical Engine. Hold wonders why Ada has been put on a pedestal. His glib conclusion is that the computing community has seized on Ada as an image in a “desperate attempt to infuse a bit of glamour into what is today a very unglamorous avocation.”
 Jim Holt, “The Ada Perplex.”, New Yorker, accessed 5 March 2003; available from <http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?010305crbo_Holt_Books_C.html>; Internet.
 Holt, 7.
 Ibid., 8.
 Ibid., 11.
Association for Women in Computing Look For Evidence
In 2003 the Association for Women in Computing had Betty A. Toole do new research on Ada. Toole went back and reread the papers that Babbage specialist, Allan Bromley, alleged proved that Ada did not write the program in the Notes. She reread these letters and papers because she stated,
“The level of Ada bashing has reached such a crescendo of psychological-sexual heat that the history of computing, which should include the evaluation of evidence has been supplanted by generalizations backed by ‘celebrity’or ‘authority’ but not evidence.” 
Evidence is just what Toole went searching for, and found. Programs that had been recently attributed to Babbage and were similar to the program that Ada used in her Notes, were not even in Babbage’s own handwriting. Bromley had stated that these Babbage programs proved that Babbage, not Ada had written the sample program for the Analytical Engine. Other authors, Cambell-Kelly and Aspray, then had repeated this mis-information in their books. It is as Susan Faludi stated in Backlash, if the media repeats something often enough, it becomes true – even if it’s not.
Toole also dealt with the question of Ada’s mathematical competency by asking Professor Dilbert, vice chairman of the mathematics department at UC Berkely to look at Ada’s mathematical correspondence. According to Toole, “Professor Dilbert concluded that what Holt and Stein wrote about Ada’s mathematical competency did not compute. Ada was, he concluded, like DeMorgan concluded, a very competent mathematician studying what was on the edge of mathematics at the time.”
Toole also looked further at the issue of how much involvement Babbage had in producing the Notes and determined that to begin with, he had asked Ada to do the Notes, and second, at the time that Ada was developing the Notes, Babbage was too busy trying to find funding for his computer and did not have many opportunities to meet with Ada. They only met six times.
Finally, Toole states,
“Ada’s place in history has not been exaggerated. In fact, just the opposite is now occurring where her contributions are becoming minimized - pulling the wool over eyes as to her real contribution.”
 Toole warns the reader to be wary of the media that can be used to mis-inform as well as inform and concludes:
The idea of the first computing machine ( The Analytical Engine) was Babbage’s idea and the first to see its potential as a multi purpose machine was not Babbage, Menabrea, or as Swade claims, Alan Turing, it was Lovelace. In addition , she clearly defined its use and misuse including pitfalls—the importance of questioning both machine and human intelligence, as a result putting the “Analytical Engine,” the computer, in the appropriate context. That is at the heart of the matter. That is our September 11th.
 Betty A.
Toole, “Poetical Science: Ada Lovelace’s Modus.” 5 May 2003. Association for
Computing Machinery, accessed 3 May 2003; available from <http://
www.acm.org/women/PoeticalScienceAda , Internet.
 Ibid., 4.
 Toole, 9.
 Ibid., 10.
Conclusion: Following the Curve of Feminism
In conclusion, it does appear that Ada’s public image has closely followed the curve of the Feminist Movement. Coming from the same revolutionary era that produced the first Feminist statement, Ada’s remarkable achievement was at first acknowledged and well received. In the 1930’s and 40’s, as women contributed to the war effort and were given more rights, Ada was again appreciated for her modern mind. Her insight and contribution were acknowledged and recognized even in the 1950’s. As the Feminist Movement grew in the 1960’s and 70’s, Ada was put on a pedestal and proclaimed the first computer programmer. The apex was in 1980 when The American Department of Defense named their language ADA in her honor. However, having become a feminist icon, when the "Feminist Backlash" began in the 1980’s, Ada was an easy target. Like Hillary Clinton, Ada did not bake cookies. Ada’s personal life came into question with biographies that suggested she was an opium addict and a “lusty coquette”. Then the mathematical skills that Ada had always been acknowledged for were drawn into question by a feminist who wanted to make an example of Lovelace. Finally at the lowest point, Ada Lovelace, was compared to Lisa-Marie Presley and called “The Most Overrated Figure in the History Of Computing”. Now it appears that in 2001 historian Betty A. Toole has responded to the “Ada bashing” with sound research and settled many of the questions about Ada's skills and contributions.
Postscript - Into the Future
Historians study the past not only to understand it better, but to understand the future even more so. Ada’s statements about the amazing possibilities of computers struck some as hyperbole and the statements of an addled mind. But in large part her vision for the future of computing has come true. In the 1940’s when Ada was first rediscovered, computers filled whole rooms and no one anticipated computer music the way Ada did one hundred years earlier. Computer music is now common place and music one of the most common uses of the Internet. The future of computers will be more amazing that many of us can anticipate. Right now there is talk of nano computers as small as molecules that will fit in our skins. Recently IBM has done research on computer jewelry, your monitor will be a bracelet, your ring your input device, your necklace your speaker. Because computers are, like mathematics, tools for the brain, the future of computers should be unfettered by pre-conceived ideas of their limitation . The mind is capable of greatness beyond our imagining and Ada, the countess of Lovelace knew that 150 years before her time.
Babbage, Charles. Passages From the Life of a Philosopher. New York: Pickering and Chatto Ltd., 1994.
Babbage, Charles. Reflection on the Decline of Science in England, and Some of Its Causes. Shannon: IrishUniversity Press, 1971.
Bell, E.T. The Development of Mathematics. New York: McGraw, 1940.
Bowden, B. V. ed. Faster Than Thought: A Symposium of Digital Computing Machines. New York: Pitman, 1953.
Bowden, Lord, Leo Goldberg, Roger Gaudry, and Henry Margenau. Science and the University. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1967.
Collier, Bruce. The Little Engine That Could’ve: The Calculating Machines of Charles Babbage. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990.
Copeland, B. Jack and Diane Proudfoot. “Alan Turing’s Forgotten Ideas in Computer Science.” Scientific American (April 1999): 99 – 101.
Davis, Martin. The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing. New York: Norton, 2000.
Dubbey, J.M. The mathematical work of Charles Babbage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishers, 1991.
Gelder, Ken. Reading the Vampire. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Henrion, Claudia. Women in Mathematics: The Addition of Difference. Bloomington: IndianaUniversity Press, 1997.
Hodges, Andrew. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence by A.M. Turing.” accessed 5 May 2003; available from http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/scrapbook/test.html; Internet.
Hoestadter, Douglas R. Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, 1999.
Holt, Jim. “The Ada Perplex.” New Yorker. accessed 5 March 2001; available from http://www.newyorker.com/critics/books/?010305crbo_Holt_Books_C.html; Internet.
Hyman, Anthony. Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer. New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1983.
Ifrah, Georges. The Universal History of Numbers. Translated by Bellos, Harding, Wood and Monk. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000.
Johnson, Paul. Birth of the Modern. World Society 1815-1830. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.
Kidder, Tracy. “Less (and More) Than Meets the Eye.” Dorothy Stein: Ada, Die Braut
der Wissenschaft – Besprechungen. accessed 5 May 2003; available from http://www.txt.de/kv- kadmos/SteinP.html; Internet.
Kim, Eugene and Toole, Betty A. “Ada and the First Computer.” Scientific American (May 1999), pg 76-80.
Kline, Morris. Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1972.
Koblitz, Ann Hibner. A Convergence of Lives, Sofia Kovalevskaia: Scientist, Writer, Revolutionary. Boston: Birkhauser, 1983.
Mattis, Michael. “Repurposing Ada.” Salon 21st. 1-5. accessed 4 April, 2003;
available from http://archive.salon.com/21st/feature/1999/03/16feature2.html; Internet.
McLeish, John. The Story of Numbers: How Mathematics has shaped Civilization. New York : Fawcett Columbine, 1991.
Mehrtens, Bos, and Schneider, ed. Social History of Nineteenth Century Mathematics. Boston: Birkhÿuser, 1981.
Moore, Doris Langley. Ada, Countess of Lovelace: Byron’s Legitimate Daughter. South Hampton: Camelot Press, 1977.
Morse, Mary. Women Changing Science: Voices From a Field in Transistion. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 1995.
Osen, Lynn M. Women in Mathematics. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1974.
Pappas, Theoni. Mathematical Scandals. San Carlos: Wide World Publishing, 1997.
Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. New York: Viking, 2000.
Stein, Dorothy. Ada, A Life and a Legacy. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987.
Stein, Dorothy. “Ada’s Propaganda Machine.” Dorothy Stein: Ada, Die Braut
der Wissenschaft – Besprechungen. accessed 5 May 2003; available from http://www.txt.de/kv- kadmos/SteinP.html; Internet.
Swade, Doron. The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build The First Computer. New York: Penguin, 2001.
Toole, Betty A. Ada, The Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron’s Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer. MillValley: Strawberry Press, 1992.
Toole, Betty A. Poetical Science: Ada Lovelace’s Modus. 5 May 2003. Association for Computing Machinery. accessed 3 May 2003; available from <http:// www.acm.org/women/PoeticalScienceAda Toole.htm/; Internet.
Tracy, Ann B. The Gothic Novel: 1790 – 1830: Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs. Berea: University Press of Kentucky, 1981.
Turney, Catherine. Byron’s Daugher: A Biography of Elizabeth Medora Leigh. Newton Abbot: Reader Union, 1975.
Wooley, Benjamin. The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.
Additional Mathematics Thoughts, Notes and Bibliography
Bibilography and Notes for Mathematics history:
Ifrah, Georges. The Universal History of Numbers. trans by Bellos, Harding, Wood and Monk. 2000 – John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York. First published in France 1994 as Histoire universelle des chiffres. by Robert Laffont, Paris
“ONLY THE FRENCH REVOLUTION had the strength to cut through the muddle and to implement what many could see quite clearly, that written arithmetic was to counting-tokens as walking on a well-paved road was to wading through a muddy stream. The use of the abacus was banned in schools and governments offices from then on.
Calculation and science could thenceforth develop without hindrance. Their stubborn and fierce old enemy had finally been put to rest. p 590
much more on the backwards way of mathematics
“The Church effectively issued a veto, for it did not favour a democratisarion of arithmetical calculation that would loosen its hold on eduation and thus weaken its power and influence; . . .” p 590
Osen, Lynn M. Women in Mathematics. 1974 MIT Press, Cambridge Mass.
“At this time, English scholars had become insular, inspired by a national pride that was a natural outgrowth of their triumph in Newton’s advances....Science (and mathematics, in particular) was at a low ebb in England after the passing of Sir Isaac Newton...
“Mary belonged to a group of scientist who pioneered the effort to arouse English interest in mathematical and scientific progress, ...” p 114
another women mathematician of the French rev period was Sophie Germain 1776
p5 – Gauss said “Mathematics is the queen of all the sciences.”
Mehrtens, Bos, and Schneider, ed. Social History of Nineteenth Century Mathematics. 1981 Birkhÿuser, Boston.
I love this book. “Thus the new mathematics of the period was only one aspect of that vigorous pioneering and rebellion that went on in almost of intellectual life in this period from 1789, to 1848, between the first and the third French Revolution. Think of the new ideas: in politics Republicanism and Carbonari, in economics the theories of Adam Smith and Ricard and Fourier, in literature the modern novel with Dickens and Stendahl and in poetry the visions of Shelly, in the. . . “p 11 Struik – Mathematics in the early part of the nineteenth century – his article
he continues “The gods themselves were challenged by invoking the spirits of Faust and Prometheus, and nationalism tended to replace the cosmopolitanism of the intellectual world in the previous century.”p11
he goes on to quote – Eric Hobsbawn, the English historian,
“No one could fail to observe that the world was transformed more radically than ever before in this era. No thinking person could fail to be awed, shaken and mentally stimulated. and is hardly surprising that patterns of though derived from the rapid social changes, the” p 12
*** p17 – “This brings us to Great Britain, the European country that dedicated itself to fight the French Revolution and Bonaparte, and thus was most inclined to withstand the intellectual and political influence of this French Revolution and this Bonapart. A bad period for the adaption, or even the serious study, of continental ideas, the more so since the native sons with scientific and engineering interests were absorbed, directly or indirectly, in research and construction related to the industrial revolution.
Continental mathematics was not very welcome. Not even the decimal division of weights and measures was allowed to enter Great Britain. *** - “Yet, “subversive” penetration of the ideas of the French Revolution did exist – we may think of Goodwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. *** In mathematics it came, in and around 1816, in the form of the Cambridge Analytical Society and its young member Babbage, Herschel and Peacock. They began to propagate the continental calculus, the “d-notation” instead of Newtown’s fluxions and translated a book of Lacroix. Babbage would soon start on his mechanical computer.”
p61 – “It is fairly clear from the writings of political thinkers some of whom (like d’Alember and Condorcet) were mathematicians, that at the outset of the Revolution mathematics had a specially privileged position among sciences as the model of ‘rationality’ and the opponent of obscurantism.” – then goes on to say changes around 1800 – in France
p136 “ By the end of the eighteenth century many persons in Britain began looking to the Continent, and in particular to FRANCE for advanced knowledge in mathematics. .. They lamented the decline, or stagnations of British mathematics. One of the causes of inferiority, they felt , was the traditional British stress on synthetics mathematics to the neglect of analytics.
“Analytic” denoted a particular style of mathematics. It had come into fashion in mathematics on the Continent in the second half of the eighteenth century largely through the works o L. Euler (1707-1783) and J.L. Lagrange (1736-1813). Its main characteristic was the formal manipulation of equations, or expressions; analytics implied an algebraic or formal, operational approach to a topic.... non-analytical methods came to be identified with British mathematical inferiority. The adoption of analytics with its related differential notation, therefore , was seen by many in England as a remedy for the stagnancy of mathematics there. p 137
*** _ NOte that Babbage named his society the “analytical Society” and importantly his engine was the “ANALYTICAL ENGINE”
p 141 – “The Best example of a product of the forces mentioned above is the Analytical Society (1812-1813). It was a short lived association of a small but remarkable group of Cambridge students, including John Herschel (1792-1871), Babbage (1791-1871) and Peacock
Its idea concern for the inferiority of Brit math and enthusiasm for continental ideas –
“They resolved to contribute to English mathematical science by studying and advancine analytics.” p 141
p142 – all taught their pupils French mathematics !!!!!!!!
p224 – Babbage sounds as crazy as Ada and talking of miracles and his analytical engine.
p225 – de Morgan – Ada’s teacher and symbolic logic
There is also in here description of how few professional mathematicians – no role for them – so to dismiss Ada because she was not too professional in her mathematics is a bit of “presentism.” The usual course was to have a private tutor as Ada did.
p140 “Students were coming to Cambridge in the early nineteenth century, according to Sheldon Rothblattt, in a questioning mood. They were more independent than students of the eighteenth century and were “introducing into their university lives many of the social and intellectual ideas of their time”
p81 A detailed account of the French situation would have to consider the fact that French mathematicians produced more than 80% of the mathematics published in the first three of four decade of the 19th century, ... and that most of the leading French mathematicians enjoyed a very high social status....
Pappas, Theoni. Mathematical Scandals. 1997 Wide World Publishing/Tetra San Carlos
4th printing April 2002
“Contrary to popular belief, mathematics is a passionate subject. Mathematicians are driven by creative passions that are difficult to describe, but are no less forceful than those that compel a musician to compose or an artist to paint.
p63 – talks about the scandalous way Alan Turing was treated
p7 – Ada Byron Lovelace’s Addiction – horse race gambling – lots of details of cards etc for engine – not discovered till mid 1900’s p 14
Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. Viking, New York, 2000.
1957 – Sputnik – Soviet’s first space satellite – spurring a demand to train women in math and science
intro – gives 1967 as beginning – sort of
and says “media pundits” declared the women’s movement dead in 1979.
has an ephiphany in 1980’s teaching – young female students don’t know the past – not sad – IT MEANS that the womens’ movement has transformed society.
“What stunned me was that the changes in women’s lives had been so deep, so wide-ranging, so transformative .p xiii
1980’s backlash with “family values” and religious right
1848 – first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls – New York
1852 , Ada died at age of 36.
1960, “Pill” made available to women.
1961 – strike against radioactive milk – and for peace – is movement since 20’s
instant housewives strike – INTERESTING
President Kennedy’s commission on women – unintentionally raises women’s consciousness – Trying to free women to help combat Russians and Sputnik
1962 – Sex and the Single Girl – Helen Gurley Brown
1963 – Feminist Mystique – Betty Friedan
1966 - NOW
1968 – Sisterhood is powerful
1968 – Kennedy & King – shot – Huge Protest in France – etc.
1973 – Our Bodies Our Selves
1971 – Normal Mailer – Prisoner of Sex – attack on the feminist movement
1974 – Equal Opportunity Credit – deal
1975 – Susan Brownmiller – Against Our Will – on prevalence of rape
1979 – Moral Majority formed by Jerry Falwell
1980 – Reagan elected – REAGAN REVOLUTION -
1981 – Betty Friedan – The Second Stage – in attempting to save the movement from the right wing backlash – blamed the feminist movement for women’s problems – a feminist mystique now – a “reactionary retreat”
1981 – Sandra Day O’connor – first woman elected to Supreme Court
1983 – Sally Ride the first woman in space
1984 – more working women than those who stay at home p 337
1985 – feminism spreads globally
1986 – News Week poll – 56% of women say they’re feminist
71% say the movement has improved their lives
1986 – Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale – a story to deal with the horror of a faith based backlash against women’s rights
56% of women say they’re feminists
1989 – Fall of Iron Curtain – i believe
? Is this just a neat sandwich between the beginning and end of the Cold War, the women’s movement to corresponds to the soviet threat of 1957 – 1989?
1990 – ½ of all adults think men have it easier – as opposed to 1975 when 1/3 of people thought men had it harder.
1991 – trial of Clarence Thomas – and allegations of sexual harassment by
Anita Hill – he gets the job anyway
1991 – Susan Faludi – BACKLASH: The Undeclared War Against American Women– tells who and how backlash created – by media – media fueled panics about a “man shortage” spooked independent women p 334 even when authors of this research protested the media’s distortion of their research. The damage had already been done. p 334
1994 – Congress passes the violence against women act
1995 – 4th World Conference on Women – deals with rape as a war crime
questions of whether feminism is just a capitalist concept and how will it fit into Global culture.
1999 – Hilary Clinton runs for Senate and succeeds
Dubbey, J.M. The mathematical work of Charles Babbage. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge – 1978
Mentions in detail of the difference engine and the analytical engine. mentions Jaquard loom and that Babbage had one of the most complicated of them. Must have been his idea.- not Ada’s
Morse, Mary. Women Changing Science: Voices From a Field in Transistion. Perseus Publishing, Cambridge. 1995
Interesting book – might come back to it to get statements about female or mathematicians lives. I want to argue that even though Ada died at 36 – and most say those most productive years – women’s lives are different because of demands of child rearing and they are more productive after 30’s. Mary Summerville is the best example.
Bell, E.T. The Development of Mathematics. Dover 1992 2nd edition of book first published in 1940 McGraw, New York.
This classic repeats the French Reolutionary idea.
p367 “With the eruption of French “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” in 1789, a rapid democratization of mathematical research began.
excellent explanations of mathematical ideas of the whole time – before and after
Wolf, Naomi. Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use it. Fawcett Columbine, New York. 1993.
Current theories about inner child for adults. The inner child is always good.
But this “innocent victim” inner child must be joined by her mischievous, boisterous, unregenerate twin, the inner bad girl lurking in the female psyche, who has a very different set of qualities.
There is something in the quality of Ada
Henrion, Claudia. Women in Mathematics: The Addition of Difference. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. 1997.
History p xxvii “For example during the conservative postwar period of the 1950’s and 1960’s when the social pressure on women to stay home and allow men to obtain employment was at its peak, women’s participation in mathematics was at an all-time low for the century. Footnote 13 p
“Only later, with the fire of the Sputnik eras and the subsequent women’s movement, did women regain and begin to significantly increase their numbers in mathematics and science.
1970’s – shift from “gaining access” to mathematics to how to attain “equity” - significant change
women are 44% of math majors
“When most people think of a mathematician, they picture a nerd engrossed inscribbles and equations, a calculator in one hand ...
The image of a mathematician within the mathematics community, however, is quite different. It is a romantic image of an explorer, living a life filled with adventure, discovery and excitement.
As one mathematician, Judy Roitman, says, its like being a deep-sea diver, diving into an endless ocean, and being constantly delighted by the beautiful discoveries that lie below the surface. p 3 – both quotes
Not mathematicians as loners – but
p 9 “In fact, mathematics is in many ways an extremely social activity,. . .
p 111 – she addresses the issue of a young man’s game – says researcher Stern found no correlation between age and productivity. not quality or quantity of work
p 113- nevertheless “the image of mathematics as a young man’s game has a powerful hold on the imagination of the mathematics community, and can have a paricularly detrimental effect on women”
“women’s professional timelines – what they accomplish when – may be markedly different from those of their male counterparts.
“Leibniz, Newton, Euler, Lagragen, LaPlace, Gauss, Plato, Archimedes, and Pythagoras all lived and were productive until at least their seventies or eighties.”
“I don’t want to make this sound escapist, but I have this feeling that psychically it’s a place that you take refuge in. There is no poverty, there is no war, there is no sorrow ...”
p 175 Judy Roitman – current female mathematician professor of mathematics at Wellesley
another story of a woman suddenly getting insight into mathematical theory while changing her babies diaper
p234 – “Two thousand years ago, the Pythagoreans believe that mathematics was the language of the universe – and idea encapsulated in the simple phrase “all is number.”. . .
Hence to pursue mathematics was to pursue truth – certain, eternal, and absolute truth.”p234 also
later “Mathematical knowledge was closely tied to knowledge of the divine.”
she quotes “Bertrand Russel described mathematics as a “refuge in a timeless world, without change or decay or the will-o-the-wisp of progress” p 236
get this “Mathematicians create by acts of insight and intuition. Logic then sanctions the conquests of intuition. It is the hygiene that mathematics practices to keep its ideas healthy and strong.” p 247
“However, in Western society, reason is characteristically pitted against intuition. p247 footnote 35
HOW DO WE DECIDE WHAT IS IMPORTANT MATHEMATICS P 252
“Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics” Hardy p 254
p258 – what women need intellectually is finding their own voice – they must make mathematics their own to enjoy it--- ADA
MY BEST QUOTE _
“IT IS TRUE THAT A MATHEMATICIAN, who is not somewhat of a poet, will never be a perfect mathematician” Weierstrass. p 265
Kline, Morris. Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times. Oxford University Press. New York. 1972.
“By 1815 mathematics in England was at its last gasp and astronomy nearly so.” p 622
talks about poor state of Brit math – blames it on Newton – and the isolation of Britain following Newton and not Leibniz
analytical society gets rid of Newton’s “Dot-age” p 622 and adopt Leibniz’s “d-ism”