Tag: Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace Day 2023


Thank you to everyone who came to our Ada Lovelace Day celebrations -to listen to talks, make badges, edit Wikipedia, and generally celebrate women in STEM. Thank you as well to those who walked the Women in STEM trail and took their pictures with the inspiring women featured.


Special thanks to our guest speakers Prof Ruth King, Prof Frauke Zeller, and Bhargavi Ganesh, who engaged the room with their fascinating stories of space elephants, hitchhiking robots, tree rings, and steam boats. We were all inspired by their unique career paths and the curiosity they showed about the world around us. Their research demonstrated the importance of combining humanities with technology and data to innovate, and how women are vital to this innovation, just as Ada was vital to the founding of computer programming.

Unfortunately the day was tinged with sadness at the tragic loss of a colleague, but that served to remind me how important it is to gather and be together.

Ada Lovelace Day 2022

Badger. (Photo taken by Miki Sun, Thank you.)

As every year, I gathered colleagues, friends and students to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day again.  There was story on the BBC that this year might be the end for ALD, but I am not convinced. There is still much work to be done.

“According to data published by STEM Women – a company which organises networking and careers events – there has been little recent improvement in addressing gender inequality in the sector.Figures which it has compiled indicate the number of women in the STEM workforce in the UK increased marginally between 2016 and 2019, from 21% to 24%. It says data trend analysis suggests women will still hold under 30% of the jobs in the sector by the end of the decade.”

If Ada Day should fail, we can begin to create Mary Somerville Day as the Scottish equivalent. Maybe RBS will be our sponsor.

We keep an ongoing blog of our Edinburgh University Ada Lovelace celebrations, our guests, activities and OER.  We were delighted to have Prof Emma Hart as our guest and the audience enjoyed equally hearing about her work and hearing about her experience as a TED speaker. My teams were all buzzing afterwards.

speak, friend, and enter

Picture taken by me in the street. No rights reserved by me.

This week I’ll be speaking at:
Texts and contexts: the cultural legacies of Ada Lovelace
Mathematical Institute, Woodstock Road, Oxford

A workshop bringing together graduate students and early career researchers to discuss the varied cultural legacies of this extraordinary figure.   More information

The full 3 day symposium was a great success.

I noted there were more women than usual at a Computer Science conference and I learned that maths saved Ada Lovelace from being known only as a mad cat lady.

all in the name of Lovelace

Picture taken by me. Copyright on LEGO Ada belongs to Stewart Cromar.

Ada Lovelace Day at University of Edinburgh was a great success this year. The LTW, USD and L&UC teams outdid themselves. We had a lifesize Lego Ada in the Main Library, and the complete Ada and Baggage Lego set in Hugh Robson Building.  We taught students and colleagues how to code music, edit wikipedia, build lego rasperry-pi cases, add metadata, colour-in and celebrate women in tech, all in the name of Lovelace.

Votes for Lego Women
Stewart Cromar’s on going campaign to get his Ada lego set on to the shelves of stores worldwide was embraced by #adalovelaceday enthusiasts.  LEGO Ada has now passed the 4.5K vote mark and is currently the #1 project on the Ideas homepage.

Open educational resources
In celebration of Ada and just because it’s a good thing to do we released several open educational resources for you to enjoy. These include the instructions for our workshops, how to make your own raspberry pi case and a super on-trend grown-up colouring in sheet designed by Jackie Aim.

Picture taken by me. Copyright on LEGO Ada belongs to Stewart Cromar

Social Media Reaction
Our Ada Lovelace Day website took over a 1K page views in the week, with the OER content being particularly popular. In addition to the many tweets from participants using the #ALD15eduni hashtag we had several official Tweets and RTs from both Raspberry Pi and Sonic Pi and messages of support from similar events at other universities.

On Tour

Stewart and I will both be giving papers in Oxford in December as part of the Ada Lovelace bicentennial celebrations hosted by the Bodleian and Somerville College.

Ada Lovelace Day, Edinburgh

(c) Stewart Cromar 2015 Vote now to make it real https://ideas.lego.com/projects/102740

The University of Edinburgh will be hosting Ada Lovelace Day on Tuesday 13th October 2015 – an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). You are all welcome, please join us.

Our provisional schedule includes:

  • composing music with algorithms
  • building Raspberry Pi enclosures with LEGO
  • metadata games in University of Edinburgh’s Library and University Collections
  • Wikipedia training session and edit-a-thon
  • Ada buns
  • guest speakers
  • and much more!

Book now.

Morning (booking link)
11:00-11:30 Introduction to the day with speakers on Lovelace, research using LEGO, programming and games (Melissa Highton, Katya Krasnopeeva & Judy Robertson)

11:30 – 14:00 Fun with data, algorithms, and Pi:  hands-on sessions (drop-in)
•        compose your own music with algorithms – sessions running at these times: 11:30 – 12:15; 12:15 – 13:00; 13:00 – 14:00
•        build your own Raspberry Pi enclosures with LEGO  – sessions running at these times: 11:30 – 13:00; 13:00 – 14:00
•        play and compete in metadata games (University of Edinburgh’s Library and University Collections division) – sessions running at these times: 11:30 – 13:00; 13:00 – 14:00

Afternoon (booking link)
14:00 – 17:00 Wikipedia Editathon
Join us to raise profile of women in computer science & inspire a new generation!  Receive expert advice and training so that you can, edit and publish articles for Wikipedia. Then publish new articles or improve existing articles about prominent Edinburgh University women, past and present, who are under-represented within Wikipedia.
·         14:00-15:00 Wikipedia training
·         15:00 Afternoon tea (catering provided)
·         15:15-17:00 Wikipedia Editing and Publishing: Edinburgh’s women in Computer Science

*You are welcome to bring your own topics of interest to write Wikipedia articles about too.

#ALD15 #ALD15Eduni

set in stone

Slide01Two weeks ago I presented the story of our Women in Science and Scottish History editathon at the Wikipedia Science conference in London at the Wellcome Trust*.

This week Surgeon’s Hall unveiled a plaque to commemorate the Edinburgh Seven and the Surgeon’s Hall riot. I am very pleased to be able to draw a direct line from the fun we had  on the web at our wikipedia editahon to the fixing of a permanent plaque. it’s nice when the physical and the virtual keep up with each other.

The Wikipedia Science conference was a good place to discuss the contribution of women to the telling of science stories and disseminating research. Peter Murray-Rust described Wikipedia as our greatest achievement in the 21st Century. I reminded the audience that less that 15% of the people who edit Wikipedia are women and we discussed whether or not this was a problem.  One delegate suggested that women aren’t interested in facts and another that women have ‘other’ things to do. We wondered how Wikipedia would be different, and Wikipedia science would be different, if more women contributed. We wondered what might be done to find out.

Slide02The Edinburgh Seven had a tough time when they tried to break into the male world of university medicine, but they were working within historical, established structures. Surely Wikipedia is designed from the start to be more open, more democratic, more participatory? Wikipedia is only 15 years old. It seems like it is work worth doing to try to recruit more editors and a good place to start would be amongst information professionals and women in tech.

It seems to me that the kinds of initiative we may need to get more women using wikipedia for science, are very much in the same vein as those more generally for women in STEM workplaces. We need women to want to join, and want to stay.

The presentation I gave described the research I am involved in with the Open University to identify the workplace learning outcomes for university staff and students in developing digital skills, information literacy skills and understanding of copyright in an open knowledge environment.  The research team have surveyed and interviewed.  Interviewees describe rich learning experiences, learning a range of skills and knowledge, for example:

  • technical knowledge (how to create a Wikipedia page, how to edit, how to cite other sources etc),
  • factual knowledge around the topic (names, dates, locations of historical events),
  • relational knowledge (how to interact with archivists and materials, how and where to source information, how to plan work with others),
  • socio-cultural knowledge (how to operate within a network of people with a common purpose).

Slide08Which all seem like good skills worth investing in. I am particularly interested in how editathons, if run well, can develop not just tech knowledge but also workplace cultural capital and networks. These are the things women need in STEM workplaces.

Watch this space for further research results, and for the next Edinburgh editathon.

The hashtag for the conference was #wikisci . I recommend the conference as a top value for money event. Less than 30 quid for access to the most up to date thinking in wikiscience.


*great venue


It’s not ok

Martha Lane Fox
Martha Lane Fox By The Cabinet Office [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Baroness Martha Lane-Fox delivered the 39th annual Dimbleby Lecture from London’s Science Museum on March 30, 2015. I delivered a short welcome speech at Elearing@ed forum at Edinburgh University on April 23.  I took the opportunity to quote her.

In her lecture she quoted Aaron Swartz  “It’s not ok not to understand the Internet anymore.”*

I talked about Creative Commons.

Creative Commons has changed the way the Internet works in higher education.

Therefore, it is not ok not to understand Creative Commons anymore.


As it happens, the day before , on April 22, I saw Baroness Oona King of Bow speak.  Baroness Lane Fox name-checked Ada Lovelace, who was of course, Countess King in her own day, but I think that is just co-incidence.


*She also said “get more women involved in technology.”




Ada and Mary

Thomas Phillips - Mary Fairfax, Mrs William Somerville, 1780 - 1872. Writer on science - Google Art Project.jpg
“Thomas Phillips – Mary Fairfax, Mrs William Somerville, 1780 – 1872. Writer on science – Google Art Project” by Thomas Phillips – vgGXxVhiio34ew at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

So, we were talking about the connections between Ada Lovelace and great Scot, Mary Somerville.

It is exciting to mention Ada in connection with Lord Byron and it helps to easily situate her in historical context, but he really didn’t play much of a role in her life.  Byron allegedly had some concern that his own waywardness might be inherited, so he left Ada’s mother when Ada was still a baby*.

While it is also exciting to think of Ada Lovelace as a pioneer, she was not actually a crusader, nor a feminist actor on any poitical stage.

If you are looking for a a female scientist and activist to celebrate,   Mary Somerville is your woman.

Mary Somerville  played a key role in defining and categorizing the physical sciences, was one of the best known scientists of the nineteenth century and a passionate reformer. She was the author of best-selling books on science and a highly respected mathematician and astronomer.  She was  a very clever woman and was for several years Ada’s tutor and mentor. A staunch supporter of women’s suffrage and a great advocate of women’s education in 1868 Mary was the first person to sign J.S Mill’s petition to Parliament in support of women’s suffrage **.

If you are interested, the Mary Somerville collection, owned by Somerville College and held at the Bodleian Library, contains a significant number of letters from Lady Lovelace and her daughter to the Somerville family. They also include an invitation from Charles Babbage to Mary Somerville and her husband to view his new ‘Calculating Engine’.  Worth checking out***.


*Well he would say that, wouldn’t he.

**read more from Somervile college history website
*** perhaps someone will map the data and connections to create a visualisation of *that* social network.