Talk:Ada Lovelace

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article has been mentioned by multiple media organizations:

Microsoft authenticity holograms[edit]

Could someone please provide a source for this? I have looked online and offline, but have been unable to discover any examples (although someone provides the example of a watermark on the Windows 95 certificate of authenticity on their blog).

I don't want to remove it just yet, because I'm not sure what Wikipedian policy is on the matter of missing sources.


Will somebody read this sentence from the summary, and tell me it's not horrendous?

She had no relationship with her father, who separated from her mother just a month after Ada was born, and four months later he left England forever and her farther died in Greece in 1823 when she was eight.

Father is misspelled, and the sentence is run-on.

Edit: Just noticed that this was changed from the request two sections above from before. It's even worse than it was before. This article is all but linked to from the front page of Google. You miiiight want to change it back to how it was; at least then it was a personal preference instead of a glaring error.

Ada Lovelace's name[edit]

As explained on the talk page far above, the usage of British titles means that "Lovelace" refers to her husband solely. Ada was never in her lifetime or after referred to as "Lovelace". That term was used for her husband alone. Of course Ada's last name was taken to be "Lovelace", but she was invariably not referred to by that alone. It would have been as "Ada Lovelace" or "Lady Lovelace". The fact that the computer language named after her is called "Ada" and not "Lovelace" should give you a hint. If you can find authoritative references of the use of "Lovelace" alone to refer to her then please cite them. It is possible that your confusion over this matter is because you are not familiar with the usages of British titles. The suggestion (by more than one editor) that it is natural for a high-achieving woman to be referred to by her husband's name and not by her own name suggests how deeply entrenched are sexist attitudes on Wikipedia. Xxanthippe (talk) 08:19, 5 April 2015 (UTC).

I don't know anything about British titles, but WP:LASTNAME says that everyone should be referred to by their last name, including pseudonymous last names. The issue has already been discussed here previously and it doesn't look like there is consensus to change it. Kaldari (talk) 01:12, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
It's actually pretty easy to find sources that refer to her as "Lovelace":
  • "Byron died in Greece when Lovelace was eight years old" -- A to Z of Mathematicians
  • "Anabella Milbanke told Lovelace that Leigh was her half sister and fathered by Byron." -- Giants of Computing
  • "In a similar way, the Lovelace paper remains the sole witness to the power and scope of Ada Lovelace's special genius." -- Notable Women in Mathematics: A Biographical Dictionary
There's even a graphic novel about her called The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.[1] Kaldari (talk) 01:27, 6 April 2015 (UTC)
Due to your unfamiliarly with British titles you may not understand that "Lovelace" is not Ada's surname (The Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biographies guideline which you quote, explicitly deals with surnames). Ada's surname is "King-Noel" because that is the surname of her husband. The Manual of Style does not give clear guidance on this matter, but it would be ludicrous to refer to her as "King-Noel" in her article. The Manual of Style also says "Be careful not to give someone a title too soon", so it would be inconsistent to refer to Ada as "Lovelace" at times before her husband succeeded to the Earldom only 14 years before Ada's death. The situation is a mess and is not covered by guidelines, a not unusual state of affairs, so WP:IAR. The solution I have advocated is to call her "Ada Lovelace" throughout because, as the article states correctly at its start, that is now how she is commonly known. However, using the two words every time is clumsy so I suggest alternating with "Ada". The consistency of always including "Ada" when referring to her will make it easier for newcomers to follow the article; they might be confused by the variety of styles by which she was known. It is also the usage of Ada's biographers, who are our best guide to the writing of biographical articles. The biographers (Jane Cooper, Wendy Pollard) of two other women writers Mary Louisa Molesworth and Pamela Hansford Johnson (also the wife of a peer), to whose Wikipedia articles I have contributed, refer to their subjects as "Louisa" and "Pam", so any suggestion that it is in some way not appropriate to refer to Ada Lovelace as "Ada" is ill-informed and inconsistent with professional practice. The three examples you give of the use of "Lovelace" are mathematical organs, whose conventions are different. If you wish to garner support from a graphic novel, you are welcome to. Xxanthippe (talk) 04:16, 6 April 2015 (UTC).

After having spent some time debating with an editor who admits that he does not know anything about the central issue, I have been WP:Bold and have made the revisions I proposed. A bit of an anticlimax really. Not much was changed: it should be easier for newcomers to read and some remaining sexisms have been mitigated. Xxanthippe (talk) 06:02, 6 April 2015 (UTC).

I have reverted the change as I believe it needs further discussion. It would be good to get some additional opinions. Kaldari (talk) 18:27, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

Let me get this right. Treating men and women equally by applying the same standards to both is sexism? I am astounded by the premise of this thread. Surtsicna (talk) 18:33, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

Ada Lovelace seems wrong to me, I was taught that she was Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace. Its unusual to use the hereditary seat on its own without the title, Lovelace is not a surname. To call her Ada Lovelace is rather grating, the best analogy I can come up with to illustrate what a monstrosity this usage is, for Americans who don't understand aristocratic titles, would be to start calling Barack Obama, Barack United States, using part of the name of the office as a substitute for the surname. It would be much better to move this article to Ada Byron and to use Ada Byron throughout.--KTo288 (talk) 14:36, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
Follow the sources. We have sources that refer to her as "Lovelace." Do we have sources that make a point of referring to her as something else? KTo288, have you seen books or articles that call her "Byron"? Are there books or articles that call her "Ada"?
There are some cases, specifically the names of Icelanders, in which Wikipedia makes an exception to the last name rule. However, it sounds like WP:COMMONNAME applies here. To counter "Barack United States," Ibn-Sina is referred to as "Avicenna" and Carolus Magnus as "Charlemagne." If the use of "Lovelace" as if it were Ada Lovelace's surname has become standard, then we should use it too. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:58, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
@KTo288. You are technically correct and you seem to show more grasp of the matter than is evident in some of the US-centric contributions to this thread. However, it is an established fact that Ada is most widely known as "Ada Lovelace" so this is probably the most appropriate usage here. I expect you will agree the use of "Lovelace" by itself is unacceptable as it refers to her husband and not herself and is thereby sexist if not insulting. You might like to look at my version here [2] where I try to find a way of treating her name that is correct and consistent.
@Darkfrog2. "Lovelace" is not Ada's surname. Her surname was (when she was married to the Earl of Lovelace) "King-Noel". It is best practice of biographers of prominent women, which I have referred to above, to refer to them by their own name and not by their husband's name. You ask: KTo288, have you seen books or articles that call her "Byron"? Are there books or articles that call her "Ada"?. Here is one [3]. Xxanthippe (talk) 10:51, 16 April 2015 (UTC).
Yes it's been established that it's not her surname and no one here seems to be confused on that point, but Wikipedia has many cases in which a person would called be something not his or her surname nonetheless. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:19, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
We do refer to this woman by her name, the name she adopted upon marriage, which then became hers as much as her husband's. If I were to change my name one day (which is very unlikely), the new name would be my name. Anyway, have we considered referring to her as "Lady Lovelace"? Alternating, perhaps, with "Ada Lovelace" and "the Countess of Lovelace". That would be a way to avoid the entirely inappropriate first name basis and the last name issue. As for Icelanders, we do not refer to them by their surnames because they do not have surnames, so they are not an exception. Surtsicna (talk) 14:45, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
Sure Wikipedia and not just Wikipedia will refer to someone not by their name, but it depends on context, when talking about Blenheim, Waterloo or Balaclava, I could refer to Marlborough, Wellington, and Cardigan, and people would understand who I was talking about. However these are not surnames, we would not refer to John Churchill as John Marlborough, Arthur Wellesley as Arthur Wellington etc. . The only comparable case I can think of where a similar use is accepted is Harry Wales, but we don't have Camilla Cornwall, Edward Wessex (though that exists as a redirect), nor William Cambridge.--KTo288 (talk) 23:22, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
Or more pertinently we don't have Sophie Wessex or Catherine Cambridge.--KTo288 (talk) 11:00, 18 April 2015 (UTC)

Vote with sources: Lovelace/Ada/Byron/King-Noel[edit]

Here's something we can try. We've established what everyone thinks about this and most of us sound pretty set in our preferences, so let's see if we can find the off-Wikipedia consensus. If the preponderance of reliable sources use "Lovelace" upon subsequent mention then we should too. If they use "Ada," we should too. Lining up sources in this way can help us see if there are any patterns in which sources prefer one usage or another, like if there's a casual/professional split or a U.S./British split.

Anyone may add to any of these lists. Anyone may add a new section. I like to put the most trustworthy sources (which in this case would mean professionally edited sources) at the top of the list, so feel free to enter your "New York Times" in between someone else's biography and web article. For example, I'm putting Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage last because it was written for entertainment purposes and I've put the Yale page last because it contains simple writing mistakes and might be mistaken about this too. (Kaldari, if you could add more info or at least confirm that I've placed these sources properly, that would be great). Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:19, 16 April 2015 (UTC)

While I think this is a useful exercise, what we should be comparing is what sources most commonly use as her last name. MOS:BIO specifies that we use the subject's last name when referring to them, but it is somewhat ambiguous what we should consider Ada Lovelace's last name. Kaldari (talk) 18:56, 16 April 2015 (UTC)
I'd say "Byron" or "King," but I haven't seen any sources (yet) that use either. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:23, 16 April 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for your ingenious and helpful list, Darkfrog2. To the Ada section you could add all the sources in the main article. As you say, the sources vary in quality. Those that meet the gold standard are the professional biographies. For the benefit of contributors to this thread who admit that they don't know anything about British titles let me explain their usage here. As KTo288 correctly says, Ada's most formal title would have been "Countess of Lovelace", used (with some variations) at official occasions, less formally "The Lady Lovelace"; by social acquaintances "Lady Lovelace" or "Ada Lovelace" and by friends "Ada". What she would have never been referred to as is "Lovelace", as that is an informal usage reserved for the holder of the peerage alone (her husband). This usage holds to this day as may be verified by sources such as Debrett's Correct Form (ISBN:0 7088 1500 6). To refer to Ada as "Lovelace" is an egregious solecism that demeans her achievements. As this is a UK-based article, UK not US conventions are applicable. The inflexible application of an inappropriate WP:Lastname guideline (not even a policy) is not helpful. There have been several other suggestions about how refer to Ada in the article. I don't object to any of them except "Lovelace". However for ease of reading it is best to be simple and uniform and that is what I have tried in this edit [4], which follows the best practice of professional biographers. In it I refer to her as "Ada Lovelace" or as "Ada", as is also done in the current version. If anybody objects to this usage, please could they explain why (with sources)? Xxanthippe (talk) 10:27, 17 April 2015 (UTC).

Thank you for the compliment. This conversation would go better if you would stop saying "people who don't know anything." I agree that we should follow best practices in reliable sources and that, if there is a U.S./U.K. split on this issue, that British rules should be used in this case. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:18, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
If you quote my words, please quote them accurately. I did not write "people who don't know anything". I wrote "For the benefit of contributors to this thread who admit (italics added here) that they don't know anything about British titles..". You can search this thread to see if there are such; let me know if you don't find any. Your general point is valid, though. There are many different cultures in the English-speaking world, and when a member of one of those cultures edits an article that is about a different culture they should take more than usual care not to make edits that could be deemed to be offensive. If some minor source refers to Ada Lovelace in a way that is sexist due to ignorance and lack of cultural sensitivity, that is no reason why Wikipedia should follow. Xxanthippe (talk) 09:41, 18 April 2015 (UTC).
It's insulting. It characterizes people who don't agree with you as ignorant. You should stop saying it because then you're making this about you; people will care more about seeing that you don't get your way than about making the article better. What you see as the "right" way to do it could just as easily be described as the "old" or "former" way to do it. The proof is in the sources. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:17, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
You misquote me again. I did not characterize anybody as "ignorant". The only use of that word on this talk page is by you. I quoted an editor who stated "I don't know anything about British titles". Those were his (exact) words, not mine. It can be a good practice for an editor to declare his state of knowledge of a topic as it allows other editors to weigh his views. If an editor says they don't know anything about a topic, that does not mean that they cannot learn about it subsequently. That is what Wikipedia exists for. Xxanthippe (talk) 10:08, 20 April 2015 (UTC).
Knock it off Xxanthippe. Let's talk about the article, not me. Kaldari (talk) 20:23, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
I agree that this irrelevant sub-thread should be terminated as it does not contribute to improving the article. Xxanthippe (talk) 01:38, 21 April 2015 (UTC).

Sources that use "Lovelace"[edit]

  1. A to Z of Mathematicians (2005)
  2. Giants of Computing (2013)
  3. Mother Jones "Ladies Last" [5] (2013)
  4. "Ada Lovelace, Victorian Computing Visionary," extract from A Passion For Science: Tales of Discovery and Invention [6]
  5. Kirkus book review [7] (refers to a novel, Ada Lovelace as fictional character) (2015)
  6. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (novel) [8] (2015)

Sources that use "Ada"[edit]

  1. Toole, Betty A. Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: A Selection of the Letters of Lord Byron's Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer. Strawberry Press: Mill Valley, CA, 1992. (biography, self-published) [9]
  2. Turney, Catherine. Byron's Daughter: A Biography of Elizabeth Medora Leigh. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, 1972.
  3. Moore, Doris Langley. Ada, Countess of Lovelace: Byron's Legitimate Daugher. Harper & Row: New York, 1977.
  4. "Ada Lovelace, Victorian Computing Visionary," extract from A Passion For Science: Tales of Discovery and Invention [10]
  5. MIT Press book review [11] (review of book from late 1980s)
  6. [12]
  7. bio page [13]
  8. [14] (confirmed 2015)
  9. [15]
  10. MacTudor History of Mathematics Archive [16] (confirmed 2002)
  11. bio page (contains errors) [17]

Which sources to trust and on what[edit]

For any information about her contribution to computing and mathematicians, technical texts by scientists and mathematicians would be the correct sources to trust, but would you trust these to be accurate with regards her strained relationship with her mother. A source written by a psychologist would perhaps be trusted better on aspects of her emotional and mentality than her mathematics. Why are we to trust a technical source to be correct on her name, when this is not their area of expertise.

I wouldn't trust anything Debrett's would have to say on mathematics, but on the names and proper form on how to address a member of the nobility, there is no better source.

If this is down to common name, we do not pander to the common name when it is wrong. For example the common name of Obama Care is wrong, it exists as a redirect to the correct name, the issue of the common name is addressed in the article but is not used in place of it.--KTo288 (talk) 10:51, 18 April 2015 (UTC)

The question here is how to refer to Countess Ada Lovelace upon subsequent mention on Wikipedia, a general-audience publication. The most reliable source for this would be a style guide designed for general-audience publications that covers this issue. The next most reliable sources would be other general-audience publications. Specialist guides sometimes deviate from standard English for reasons specific to their audiences.
As for Debrett's, it doesn't seem to do what we need it to. I don't see any subsequent mention of our subject at all, as "Ada" or "Lovelace" or anything else (but it's been a long day and if I've missed it, please point it out). I guess we could refer to this to confirm that she's also correctly called "Ada, Countess of Lovelace," but that's not in dispute right now. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:22, 19 April 2015 (UTC)
"Countess Ada Lovelace", although not sexist as "Lovelace" is, is also a usage that is technically incorrect and would not be appropriate in the article. Debrett's Correct Form is a generic guide to accepted usage and will not contain anything specifically about Ada or Byron. The problem you are so worried about has been solved long ago by Ada's biographers[18]. They use "Ada", as noted on your list. If you have a proposal of your own for the article, what is it? I have made mine clear [19]. Xxanthippe (talk) 10:08, 20 April 2015 (UTC).
It's degrading and sexist to refer to her by her first name in an academic (encyclopedic) context. You still haven't explained why referring to her as "Lovelace" is actually problematic. Yes, she married into the title, but until recently almost all women adopted their surnames and/or titles from their husbands. The practice of such adoption was sexist, referring to the women using such names/titles is not. For example, no one would suggested that referring to Margaret Thatcher (originally Margaret Roberts) as Thatcher is sexist. Referring to her as Margaret, however, would be. Kaldari (talk) 20:38, 20 April 2015 (UTC)
If you want your assertions to be regarded as more than WP:I DON'T LIKE IT or personal idiosyncrasy you will have to supply sources and precedents to back them up. The reference to Margaret Thatcher is beside the point; she was a peeress in her own right, which Ada was not. By established convention, she is referred to less formally as "Thatcher". Her page uses her title correctly. Ada's page uses hers incorrectly. You are at odds with all the Wikipedia editors who contributed to Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Anne, a handful of Queen Marys and others. Those editors follow the convention of referring to their subjects by their first names. What is good enough for a Queen is good enough for a Countess. Xxanthippe (talk) 07:09, 21 April 2015 (UTC).
A source that says "referring to women by their first names when men would not be is sexist" would also be relevant here. Not every source has to offer examples; some can make statements. I personally prefer "Lovelace," but so far we've got 2:1 in favor of "Ada." Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:27, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
@Xxanthippe and Darkfrog24: "Forms of address indicate attitudes about status and/or worth. Children often go by first names while calling adults by surname and title. Whenever males are referred to by title, use the appropriate title for female professionals, rather than their first names." -- Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language, American Philosophical Association Kaldari (talk) 21:45, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Also: "A member of the nobility may be referred to by title if that form of address would have been the customary way to refer to him or her; for example Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, may become "the Earl of Leicester" or just "Leicester" in subsequent mentions." -- WP:LASTNAME Kaldari (talk) 04:26, 18 May 2015 (UTC)
Calling her "Ada" might be a problem, but Wikipedia shouldn't fix English. It's got to be fixed out there; then Wikipedia can change to reflect the newer (and hopefully less sexist) standards. If the "Ada" sources were all from before 1985 or whenever, then we could discount them as outdated, but most of them are not. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:27, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
EDIT: Wait a second, the MIT source is from the eighties too! Are most of the "Ada" sources from before the Internet got big? I thought there might be a British/American split, but a 20th century/current split would be relevant too. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:33, 21 April 2015 (UTC)
The preceding edit makes the interesting suggestion that sources before 1985 should be discounted (why 1985?). A Wikipedia policy will be needed for that. It would be better to take the suggestion to a policy page rather than discuss it at the level of an individual article. Xxanthippe (talk) 10:48, 24 April 2015 (UTC).
Not 1985 specifically. Before the internet got big. English writing underwent a lot of big changes when the medium shifted (such as the acceptance of vertical space as a legitimate alternative to indentation as a means of distinguishing paragraphs). If we see that all the pre-internet sources do X and most of the internet-era sources do Y, then we can say, "X used to be the correct way, but Y is the correct way now."
Specifically, if all these biographies and reviews that say "Ada" are from the 1980s and early 1990s, their style might not be current and we do not have to follow their precedent. Like I said, Wikipedia isn't the place to fix or revise English, but if English has already revised itself, we should reflect that. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:08, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
We should continue looking for sources to see if this split is real. In my opinion, the most convincing type of source in this case would be 1) a current style guide or 2) an internet-era print biography of Ada Lovelace. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:11, 25 April 2015 (UTC)
That's a fair point, but the issue is global communication between previously isolated persons, rather than the medium - these days, everyone can write stuff that will be read by millions on the other side of the world, not subject to professional editing or dialect or national or cultural boundaries. It should be obvious that there can't be ONE standard applying well to all cases. It's expected that there will be some uniformisation, and some of it will stick even if it looks abstruse at first. This is no different from what happened with the ubiquity of newspapers, it's only happening at a faster pace. But it hasn't yet come to the point where almost all issues are sorted out, not enough for something like 'post-1985' to be considered authoritative. The easy parts have been ironed out, but the rest still needs discussion, and to stifle it with the argument that it's already been done in a certain way by some sources is not conducive to the best solution.
As a separate but related issue, sometimes these discussions turn into 'source wars' 'because what matters are sources' and then you go read the sources and their metadiscussions say they decided this or that based on what Wikipedia does. That, to me, is circular, harmful and leading to Single Thought. So, while WP will always be a normalising force - it's impossible for such a resource not to be - it should try to minimise the circularity by not being TOO bold TOO early.
The issue with naming women is that most of them took their husband's surname and in a biographical article it's a rare case where there isn't some discussion about the husband, so confusion ensues. It's as if in an article about brothers both were referred to by their (common) surname. Imagine a piece discussing GWB, GHWB and JB, would all of them be referred to as 'Bush'? No, disambiguation is needed, and the first thing to do is to use the first name (where that helps).
Men aren't as affected by this issue because even if sharing a surname with their wives it's rare for their notoriety to be equal, whereas women have traditionally been made subject even when they end up more notorious later on (as in this very case).
As to the respect thing, what 21st century female authors from New York consider respectful is not necessarily applicable everywhere. This isn't meant as disrespectful of 21st century female authors from New York, it's just that one specific affluent demographic can't really speak for everyone, EVER.
There's also the nature of the piece. In a biographical article, first names are much more natural than they'd be in a scientific article, for instance.
I realise these comments should best be made in the Guidelines debate forums, if such things exist, but 1) then so does most of this discussion page, 2) it's articles like this that are the frontline, and going elsewhere loses context, 3) I'm not interested in editing WP, only (in this case) in reaching the folks who are. (talk) 18:18, 12 June 2015 (UTC)


The two opinions of Ada Lovelace under the Criticism section are blatantly sexist and demeaning. There is no evidence provided in the article to support the opinions, nor is there any commentary stating that such evidence is provided in the body of either of the two cited works or in any other source. And the opinions are not directly challenged under the Defense section. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

I see nothing in the two quotations that is sexist. There is no reference to Ada Lovelace's gender, and you can replace "she/her" with "he/him" throughout without affecting the substance of the quotations. In any case, Wikipedia's role is only to report that mainstream biographers and historians hold different opinions on the extent of Ada Lovelace's contributions. An independent evaluation of the evidence supporting such opinions would be original research, which is definitely not part of Wikipedia's remit. Gandalf61 (talk) 12:34, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
I don't see a problem here, but there are problems with sexism elsewhere in the article which have been the subject of a long debate. Xxanthippe (talk) 23:34, 26 July 2015 (UTC).

A few copy edits for British English[edit]

I've gone through changing American English spellings to British ones. I know Br Eng uses -ize as well as -ise, but as both were used in the article (!) I went with -ise.

I've also noticed an inconsistent use of both single and double inverted commas.

Great article! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:19, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

File:Ada Lovelace portrait.jpg to appear as POTD soon[edit]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:Ada Lovelace portrait.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on October 13, 2015. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2015-10-13. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page. Thanks! — Chris Woodrich (talk) 22:45, 26 September 2015 (UTC)

Picture of the day
Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on using Charles Babbage's planned mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Her notes include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine, and as such she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.

Painting: Alfred Edward Chalon
ArchiveMore featured pictures...