Texts and contexts: the cultural legacies of Ada Lovelace
“That brain of mine is more than merely mortal; as time will show.”
A workshop for graduate students and early career researchers
Tuesday 8 December 2015
Mathematics Institute and St Anne’s College, Oxford
The mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), daughter of poet Lord Byron, is celebrated as a pioneer of computer science. The notes she added to her translation of Luigi Menabrea’s paper on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine (1843) are considered to contain a prototype computer program. During her short life, Lovelace not only contributed original ideas to the plans for this early computer; she also imagined wider possibilities for the engine, such as its application to music, and meditated on its limitations. Lovelace leaves a legacy not just as a computer scientist, but also as a muse for literary writers, a model to help us understand the role of women in science in the nineteenth century, and an inspiration for neo-Victorian and steampunk traditions.
As part of the University of Oxford’s celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Lovelace’s birth, this one-day workshop will bring together graduates and early career researchers to discuss the varied cultural legacies of this extraordinary mathematician. The day will feature an expert panel including graphic novelist Sydney Padua and biographer Richard Holmes, as well as a keynote address from Professor Sharon Ruston, Chair in Romanticism in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University.
Researchers from all disciplines are invited to submit proposals for papers on the influences of Lovelace’s work, on topics including, but not limited to, literature, history, mathematics, music, visual art, and computer science. This might include:
- Lovelace’s place in the study of the history of science;
- Lovelace and women in science in the nineteenth century;
- Early nineteenth-century scientific networks, including Lovelace’s relationship with such individuals as Charles Babbage and Mary Somerville. We also encourage papers which consider other scientific networks from this period, beyond Lovelace’s circle;
- Lovelace and discussions about the role of the imagination in scientific practice in the nineteenth century;
- Lovelace as translator and commentator;
- Mathematics and music, and the musical possibilities Lovelace envisaged for Babbage’s engine;
- Lovelace’s own textual legacies, such as her correspondence, childhood exercises and mathematical notes held in the Bodleian;
- Lovelace’s technological legacies, from her seminal work on Babbage’s Analytical Engine to her impact on computer programming today;
- Lovelace’s role in the steampunk tradition, from Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine to Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, and neo-Victorian fashion;
- Efforts and activities to commemorate and memorialise Lovelace, from the recent Google Doodle to the annual Ada Lovelace Day.
The call for papers is now closed.
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