Author Archives: Laura Smith

Ada Lovelace Day


You will be reading this post on a computer, tablet or even a smartphone, what ever device you use, these words are being transmitted by a computer.

Computers are a massive part of our daily lives these days, and one of its pioneers was a mathematician called Ada Lovelace who created the first ever computer program.

Lovelace was born 189 years ago, on December 10th, 1815, to an unconventional family. Her father was the famous English poet, Lord Byron.

In the 1800’s the computer may not have existed as we know it now, but the concept did. Back in the 19th Century, long calcuations were done by people, which were prone to human error, not a surprise considering how complex some of these calculations would have been for scientists. So Charles Babbage decided to create a machine, called the difference engine, to perform these set calculations automatically. Now it was the age of steam, with electricity the subject of early experiments, so the difference engine was envisaged as a mechanical machine, to be powered by turning a crank or by steam.

During this time Lovelace started to correspond with Charles Babbage after seeing the protype Charles had been working on. Lovelace was asked by Babbage’s friend, inventor Charles Wheatstone, to translate Menabrea’s notes from French to English. However, she did a little more than that. Lovelace expanded on the original writings three-fold. Her Translation and extended notes (published in 1843) became the most important work describing the analytical engine a proposed clockwork computer and how it could be used. Lovelace had created the first computer program in existence.

Lovelace of course did not live to see her work come to life, but her work was so important that the US government in the 1970’s created a standardised computer language to use for its applications, and called it ADA in Lovelace’s honour. The ADA language is still in use in systems such as air traffic control, in planes such as the Boeing 777 and London’s tube to name but a few, I have even read that it is used in space missions such as Mars Express and the Beagle 2.

Ada Lovelace, mathematician and computer pioneer, understood the potential over a century before the digital revolution began.

So today we celebrate all women in STEM (Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians). We are celebrating the research conducted by our own women scientists, Dr Anna Lisa Gentile, Dr Vita Lanfranchi, and our research PhD students Andrea Varga, Khadija Elbedweihy and Isabelle Augenstein.


Join us for the Mobile University: three days of lectures and events on a double decker bus. It’s open to everyone and it’s FREE.

Professor Fabio Ciravegna & Dr Stuart Wrigley will be giving a lecture on How citizens can help monitor rivers: from social media to flying drones

In this interactive demonstration, Professor Fabio Ciravegna explores technologies that people can use to benefit the environment.

Citizens can play a fundamental role in monitoring the environment. New technologies enable a new era where citizens and authorities cooperate for the common good.

Fabio Ciravegna and Stuart Wrigley will present technologies that citizens can use to help monitor rivers:

  • a sensor to monitor water velocity that can be built by citizens themselves
  • a drone to take environment measurements during floods that can be flown by trained citizens
  • social media, which can be used to help people react to floods.

This technology is currently being tested in the UK (Doncaster) and Italy (Venice) as part of the WeSenseIt Project. The demonstration is interactive and will involve participants. The talk will be of interest to citizens who care about the environment and citizen scientists.

Pick up your ticket or tickets from the bus on the day. (Tickets are only available on the day of the talk.)

To make sure you get a place, collect your ticket between 9.30am and 10.50am on Friday. Or you can turn up before the lecture starts – but spaces are limited.

If the bus fills up, you’ll be able to listen to the lecture and watch the presentation in an inflatable dome next to the bus.

When and where

Date and time: Sunday 29 September, 2.30pm–2.50pm

Location: Devonshire Green, city centre

View The Mobile University in a larger map