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HT: October in the Arts – Ada Lovelace Day Panel

October 4, 2021 | Connie Shakalis, HT Columnist


Am I the last person in Bloomington not to know the escapades of Lord Byron? I hate it when I discover that someone whose work I admire is/was creepy. Oh, come on. I love it.

Apparently he was mad, bad, dangerous to know.

Born with a clubbed foot in 1788, poet George Gordon Noel Byron was the son of Catherine Gordon of Gight, a penniless Scots heiress, and Captain John (“Mad Jack”) Byron, an opportunistic widower. Unbalanced emotionally, Catherine Byron raised George with a shaky maternal instinct tainted by highs, lows and insensitivity.

Why do I mention this? Ada Lovelace, George Byron’s only legitimate child and the woman many consider to be the first computer programmer, will be the focus of a free lunch and panel discussion Oct. 12 at the Mill.

Ada Byron’s mother was a mathematician, from whom Lord Byron had separated  a month after Ada’s birth.

George Byron’s womanizing and manizing caused plenty of friction, and by 1819, worn out, he had rid himself of his circle of lovers. Having left England forever, he met the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, 19 and newly married, that year. Their mutual affection developed and according to the Poetry Foundation, “Having given up ‘miscellaneous harlotry,’ he settled for ‘strictest adultery’ as cavalier servente to Teresa, his ‘last attachment.'”

Four months after he left Ada and her mother, he wrote a poem about his departure, beginning:

“Is thy face like thy mother’s my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?”

Early on, Ada’s math skill led her to a lengthy relationship, work and personal, with British mathematician Charles Babbage, famous as “the father of computers.”

“Wait! I think we can teach music,” Ada told Babbage, as she analyzed his “calculating engine.””Ada just couldn’t get away from her (father’s) creative genes,” said Jane Martin, past chair of the The Dimension Mill board and current member. (And, twin sister of a Byron scholar.)

Producing a treatise on what computers could do if they were allowed to be much more than just number crunchers, Ada became what many consider to be the first computer programmer. (Some biographers, computer scientists and historians of computing disagree.)

The Dimension Mill and Cardinal Stage will present a free panel and lunch celebrating local women in technology and innovation. Ada Lovelace Day is part of Innovation Week, a week of events about tech and innovation at The Mill.”I think Ada Lovelace Day perfectly profiles our town, filled with art and culture and innovative people and ideas spilling over from the university and our progressive ecosystem,” Martin said.

The Ada Lovelace Award will be announced at the lunch.

“Very few centrists and pessimists change the world,” Martin said.


If you go:

WHAT: Lunch and discussion panel about worldwide Ada Lovelace Day, free and open to the public.

WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 12.

WHERE: The Mill, 642 N. Madison St., 812-250-9714, https://www.dimensionmill.org.

TICKETS: Free, including catered lunch. RSVP at bit.ly/ada-btown.