Written by Science

Ada Lovelace and the Cosmonauts

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Come on. Admit it! This sounds like some kind of awesome steampunk mashup – perhaps a graphic novel.

Actually it refers to two different exhibitions currently on display at the Science Museum, and that I’m finally posting about.

Ada Lovelace – the “Enchantress of Number” – was a friend of Charles Babbage and can be regarded as the first computer programmer, having essentially designed the first ever algorithm.

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The Science Museum in London has a small exhibition on at the moment. Unfortunately it’s not at all clearly signposted since it’s not quite on the blockbuster scale of other exhibits so you may need to hunt a little until you find it on the second floor.

There’s a single room dominated by a portrait of the “Enchantress of Numbers” herself, alongside a model of the analytical engine that Babbage built in the hope of building a full sized machine.

The room also includes some of Lovelace’s letters and even a lock of her hair.

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I’m not going to be able to do justice to her here, but she was unquestionably a remarkable women, who’s life was sadly cut short.

A few more photos on Flickr here.

The Science Museum’s blockbuster exhibition right now is their celebration of the Soviet space programme. This is massive display with hundreds of items both small and very very large. Anyone with any interest in space should definitely try to get along if they’ve not already.

What I found incredible was just how small those early spacecraft were, and packed in like sardines the cosmonauts were, having to spend many hours or days in incredibly cramped conditions.

It’s also remarkable that, as we watched Tim Peake head to the International Space Station before Christmas, to think that he was getting there onboard a launch vehicle that’s not massively different from what those earlier space pioneers were travelling in. The Soyuz launch vehicles we see today are recognisably based on the earlier craft. Perhaps that’s not surprising since the physics really hasn’t changed a great deal!

The Cosmonauts continue at the Science Museum until 13 March 2016, while you have a couple more weeks to see Ada Lovelace as that exhibit finishes on 31 March 2016.