Ada Lovelace Day!
Today is Ada Lovelace Day! A day to celebrate and commemorate the work of female scientists and engineers. Ada Lovelace is considered to be the first person in history who made the conceptual leap about the potential for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. Her work is the progenitor of our modern day computer coding. And yes, she was a real woman, the estranged daughter of Lord Byron, who lived only to 36 years of age from 1815 to 1852.
To celebrate, I want to share the origins of the science in my steampunk fantasy series, the Tales of the Captain Duke.
In the steampunk history of the Captain Duke, a royal declaration by Queen Victoria in 1866 intended to secure her hold on the throne after the death of her husband had the unintended consequence of legitimizing gender equality years before it actually happened in ours. The advancements in steam-powered and mechanized technology helped to put Britain at the forefront thanks to the doubling of its national brainpower as young women joined the ranks of engineers, scientists and inventors.
Women like Ada Lovelace and her tutor Mary Somerville (1780-1872) led the way for advanced female scholarship. Somerville and her contemporary, Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) were both made honourary members of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1835 (in real life and in the world of the Captain Duke).
In this steampunk fantasy, Somerville establishes a school for female scholars, drawing on the many bright young women she corresponded with over the years. Using her vast network of contacts, she considered this work to be her crowning achievement, seeing the first graduating class matriculate before her death.
The school was called Lovelace College after her former student (and thanks to a generous donation from her heirs), and it will feature quite prominently in Book 3 of the Tales of the Captain Duke!