Ada Lovelace Day!

So, you know that thing where the Large Hadron Collider keeps breaking down in improbable ways, almost undoubtedly caused by time-travelling bad-luck particles out to prevent the destruction of our universe?

Well, a similar phenomenon seems to have been out to get me last week. As we all know last year’s Ada Lovelace Day post triggered a near-catastrophic disturbance in the space-time continuum resulting in the creation of a pocket universe.  To prevent a similar breach this year, bad-luck particles caused me to trip over a cricket bat, and collide into the already precariously overburdened  bookshelves, resulting in loud crashing sounds and a finger mysteriously sprained in such a way that I could hold a mouse to well enough to do my day job, but not a pencil in order to draw the comic.  Very funny, particles.  VERY FUNNY.

Well, I’ll fix their wagon because I was halfway through a bunch of indecisive doodles before their interference and I’ll just put them up instead shall I?

We’re all about the documents here at 2dgoggles so I turned to them for inspiration.  Here’s a corker:

When the Meteorological Society was formed it was decided to admit women, and four ladies were elected on the original foundation; among them the Countess of Lovelace– Byron’s daugher ‘Ada’.  In a little while one of these ladies, the wife of an eminent meteorologist, wrote to say that she had been told it would be injurious to the Society to have women as memebers; she, therefore, thought it her duty to resign, and she hoped the other ladies would follow her example.  One of them did so; but another, who could not be made to comprehend the necessity for mainting the scientific disabilites of women, refused to withdraw, and no one even suggested the propriety of resignation to Lady Lovelace.  But the two ladies who remained members are since dead, and no others have been elected..

I will just bet they didn’t suggest it.  I’ll bet they didn’t have the guts.  Say what you like about Ada Lovelace, she was brave as they come and didn’t mind telling people where to go, I’m fairly sure it went down like this:

Man, sexual shaming and patronizing ridicule of women trying to pursue science was such an awful thing back in Victorian times.  It’s a good thing those days are over!

(I feel incumbent on me to mention that my husband strongly objects to the word ‘rectum’ here.  He thinks ‘ass’ is less vulgar.  I think Lovelace would use the proper scientific terminology.  Discuss in the comments! ) That creeping sensation that you’re Ruining Everything by your very existence is one I’ve felt a time or three and it’s pretty horrible.  So here’s to you, nameless meteorologist, on Ada Lovelace Day!  I couldn’t hunt down who the lady who stayed actually was, so that drawing is based on Sarah Frances Whiting.

Sometimes I felt that comic was just liiittle bit bitter so as an alternate post I had this whole elaborate set up planned of which only one panel made it in postable form.. naturally it’s a pun:

Good old Babbage! Man reading all this Victorian stuff can get you down, but he always cheers me back up again. In my book he’s the reigning champion of women in science for his age– he gives a shoutout to Maria Agnesi in his autobiography; Mary Somerville was a close friend of his whom he often asked if she could give a ‘a day to the engine’ when he wanted to talk it over. And you can bet he’d be all over Ada Lovelace Day! I feel I just have to link to my two favorite Babbage/Lovelace primary docs online here–

Ada Lovelace is an Enchanted Math Fairy! and:

Anyways, the above setup was to lead into the introduction of this year’s Ada Lovelace Day lady, Eleanor Cressy (yes they were actually called Extreme Clippers). Roughs:

She’s pretty damn cool and could be a fun character so I shall definitely bring her back if transport is required for Babbage and Lovelace.. except in the pocket universe it’s airships. Definitely airships.

So that is my somewhat crippled Ada Lovelace Day post! Be sure to have a browse around all the fantastic women in tech in the slowly growing list of posts!


  1. Kaaz on April 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    New technical bookstore in Seattle: Ada’s Technical Books!

  2. Ceridwen on April 1, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    If she’s using a sextant for her coordinates she would have to be above deck.

  3. lns on April 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Would the navigator actually have been above-decks, though? An indoor job, I’d have thought…

    I do enjoy the way that each Ada and Babbage strip sends my brain thinking in half a dozen different directions…


  4. Ceridwen on April 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I just keep thinking that, on ship, she would have worn trousers. Who wants the navigator literally three sheets to the wind?

  5. lns on April 1, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Debbie G’s idea, Ken, she gets the credit!

    But yes, I am going to play around with some scraps in the next few weeks and let Ms Padua know how the results go. Ms Creesey with fully-reefable skirts!

  6. Ken on March 31, 2010 at 2:09 am

    This is wonderful work. The draftsmanship — on Babbage and Brunel in particular, but really in general — reminds me of late-period Eisner (and Eisner is my favorite cartoonist by a wide sea mile). Well done. Well done, indeed.

    @lns, reef points in a full skirt — that’s funny right there.

  7. Stephan Brun on March 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I considered the problem of how to find out the name of the other woman who stayed in the Royal Meteorological Society. The obvious answer is of course primary sources. Googling, I found that the National Meteorological Library and Archive hold old membership records of the Society, in which the names of four women should be, as well as the dates of their joining and leaving. This is not meant as criticism, but rather a suggestion, as you read as a woman who does not like to leave stones unturned.

  8. lns on March 29, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Chocolate chip cookies???

    [sidles further over to the Geek side…]

    Oh look, i *know* there’s no hope for me, trust me! I just /know/ that I shall end up producing sketches showing the design, construction and method of a reefable 1830s skirt…. I’ll consider myself ‘got off lightly’ if i don’t end up making and wearing it!!

  9. Nexxo on March 29, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    ^^^ Geek. Told you. There is no hope for you now. Join the Geek side (we have cookies).

  10. lns on March 29, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Oh Debbie, that’s inspired! Ms Padua coudl draw her with those voluminous skirts but with reefing mechanisms built in so she could furl them when required!

    From Tudor times one way to make full skirts stand out all round was to sew a channel horizontally around and push a thick rope through, like a hoop-petticoat. And the bustle skirt were adjustable to your own preference by means of channels sewn diagonally and vertically inside the very full skirt which had tapes in which you then drew up and tied on the inside, so you could have a more or less dramatic bustle.

    It’s not a very far step in logic from those to a set of tapes to furl your skirts, is it?

    Oh dear. You realise I’m now sitting working out sketches for the mechanism… sigh….

    Set of three vertical tapes at the front to raise the skirt to knee-level but in that tripartite way that clippers’ sails had. Diagonals to bring the bulk at the sides back and under.

    It could work. I can’t think why women didn’t have this reef-able skirt mechanism! We’d have been emancipated centuries earlier if we’d let a sailmaker sew our petticoats!


  11. Debbie G on March 28, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Love finding my way here, each time.

    And a vote for more of Eleanor Cressy! (Swinging in, belly laughing, yeppers!)

    Imagine standing on the wet deck of a clipper in a storm, wearing those voluminous skirts, also known as your own personal sail. Can’t even reef the dang things!

  12. Smallpotato on March 28, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Eleanor Cressy, Lady Flashhart, I pressume?

    (Flash by name, flash by nature. Ahhahahhahaha!)

  13. Kristin Norwood on March 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Important! It looks like you have mis-spelled Eleanor’s last name! Should be “Creesy”.

    Here is a link to the grave marker.

  14. lns on March 28, 2010 at 9:04 am

    nexxo, thanks for that – I’ve only recently found my Inner Geek and let her out to become my Outer Geek, so I keep absent-mindedly thinking I’m ‘normal’ still *grin*

    bob, I’m not sure I could do non-bizarre any more; you’re right…

    nexxo’s comments on Beatrix Potter made me kick myself – I knew that! I knew it so why didn’t I think of her as a C19th Woman In Science And Technology?

    Because the painting-over that was done then still works all too well now (vision of Ms. Potter in a corner clutching microscope and slides, as an army of Respectable Wives advances on her wielding large paint-brushes, expunging the brainwork and leaving behind only Jemima Puddleduck…)


  15. Ceridwen on March 27, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    This has got to be the best comment page for I don’t know how long.

    I think Ada Lovelace would have used the correct terminology since the exchange took place in a scientific environment.

    @ E-Wit – I was thinking along the same lines. Mrs Cressy with her (airship in this pocket universe) seems to echo Brunel and his locomotive.

  16. bob on March 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm


    Ah. I pictured it more as some form of connection rather than an insertion.

    You were going to post a comment that wasn’t bizarre? Get ye hence!

  17. Nexxo on March 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    You are in this conversation because you are a fellow geek, my good man/woman. Accuracy matters, even in cartoons!

    Women scientists did get a hard time in Victorian England. Beatrix Potter may be known best (amongst the muggles) for her drawings of cute ickle little bunywabbits but she was in fact an expert mycologist. Her parents wanted her to become an obedient little housewife but luckily her uncle supported her scientific pursuit. He attempted to introduce her as a student at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected because she was a woman. In 1897, her paper “On the Germination of Spores of Agaricineae” was presented to the Linnean Society by her uncle, as women were barred from attending meetings. (In 1997, the Society issued a posthumous official apology to Potter for the way she had been treated. As they should have.) The Royal Society also refused to publish at least one of her technical papers. However she lectured at the London School of Economics several times.

    Ms. Potter was very aware of the antibiotic powers of fungi. Had people listened to her more, we might have discovered Penicillin a few decades earlier.

    Unfortunately Beatrix Potter was born 14 years after Ada Lovelace died (and only five years before Babbage’s death) so they would never have met. But in the Paduan Universe, anything is possible…

  18. lns on March 27, 2010 at 11:26 am


    Why would she refer to the wrong anatomical part? (Why am I in this conversation?!)

    Right, apologies in advance.

    The anus is the entrance to the rectal passage. Only the entrance. The door-frame, so to speak. It is formed partially of a ring of muscles known as the anal sphincter.

    The rectum, or rectal passage, is the first six or eight inches once past the anus. Then one is into the gastro-intestinal system above that.

    Ada is referring to shoving a barometer where the sun don’t shine, yes? This means (I really don’t believe I am debating this point so energetically) insertion of said foreign object INTO the person of the offending party, yes?

    If she threatened a conjunction of a barometer and the man’s anus then all she’d be doing is prodding and poking at the external surfaces of the anal region. A little light bruising, perhaps. Like burgling a house by hovering on the threshold but not actually stepping through the doorway.

    What she’s suggesting by “your rectum and a barometer” is completely different.

    Anyway, I am now in a state of total disbelief that I have finally posted in the Ada comments and it has to be on so bizarre a topic.

    I’m surprised at the lack of understanding of basic anatomical terminology, though.

    Anus = external opening
    Anal sphincter = ring of muscles forming this opening
    Rectum = c.15-20 cm inside the anal sphincter
    Ass = in 1830, its sole meaning was a donkey-like mammal.


  19. bob on March 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    It seem unlikely that Ada would use a somewhat nonsensical, modern Americanism for rectum. If anything she might have used the popular contemporary vulgarism, “arse”. Of course, given the context, I doubt she’d have said rectum either: anus or sphincter, perhaps.

  20. lns on March 26, 2010 at 11:04 am

    This settles it!

    The Complete Oxford English Dictionary confirms that ‘ass’ meaning the donkey-like animal goes back a thousand years, but ‘ass’ chiefly US meaning arse only goes back to 1860 in any known written format in the English language.

    So that makes it exceedingly unlikely that Ada would have used a term that was not written down for another three decades and wasn’t used outside the USA even when it did come in.

    Trust the Complete OED: really she wouldn’t have used ‘ass’ unless she meant “your donkey and a barometer”…


  21. It’s Ada Lovelace Day! | Hot Trends News on March 26, 2010 at 9:08 am

    […] women in science, technology, and engineering. Details over at The Panda’s Thumb and read the 2D goggles webcomic on the topic (read the whole 2D goggles thing anyway, it’ s […]

  22. Sara on March 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I believe, but someone with more knowledge should verify….
    That ‘rectum’ would not ever have been spoken by a “lady” if she wanted to be considered genteel.
    On the other hand, as another poster pointed out, ass has a very non-rectum side to it, referring to the animal and was used.

    Given the whole of the situation I think real Lady Lovelace would have chosen ‘ass’. In a time driven by ridiculous rules of etiquette, the best insults were given in veiled terms or at least in terms that were not outright vulgar.

    But in order to please the day’s audience, rectum just works better. Because a Lovelace of today would undoubtedly have chosen the scientific rather than idiomatic. And we (today’s audience) are more readily able to appreciate that.

  23. E-Wit on March 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Eleanor Cressy is terrific; reminds me of your Brunel. Is that a sexist remark? Hope not; they’re both fabulous.

  24. lns on March 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I think you’ve got it right for the wording – rectum. I doubt Ada would have used “ass” as there was a strong distinction in her day between the comic and the vulgar and “ass” would definitely just be vulgar: coarse without being funny. She wouldn’t have used “sphincter”, nor even “anal sphincter” because it wouldn’t be accurate to describe what she is suggesting. The sphincter is to rectum what the lips are to the throat, and we talk about, e.g., politicians shoving their views down someone’s throat, not about them tickling someone’s lips!

    What a very peculiar topic for my first post here.

    Ada is wonderful. So is Babbage, a bit. Ada is wonderfuller, though.

    Thankyou so much for bringing her back, and in so entertaining a form at that!

  25. Brian on March 25, 2010 at 1:59 am

    Aw, Eleanor Cressy is fabulous! I need more people in my life who come swinging in on ropes and belly-laugh.

  26. Bella Green on March 25, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Again, thanks for the brilliant stuff.

    Ada might’ve used ‘sphincter’ but she would’ve specified ‘anal’ as well – scientific precision, and all that.

  27. Magdalena K. on March 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    It’s not a crippled post. It is a whole, beautiful, behind-the-scenes post. It reminds of the time I was invited to a screening of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, when the final animation and post-processing had not been completed. So the film was an amalgamation of “finished animation,” b&w animation, some “wireframe” and even storyboards mixed in. And it was lovely. Just as your post is.

    Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

    (And I agree about “rectum,” but do you think she might have also used the term “sphincter”?)

  28. Alex on March 24, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Sarah Whiting was the founder of the Wellesley astronomy department, my alma mater and the reason I’m a “woman in technology”! Thanks for the terrific comic, I’m sending it to all my Wellesley friends!

  29. Leifbk on March 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I figure that the mentioned barometer is of the original rather voluminous glass tube type filled with quicksilver, and not one of the later membrane models, which would be quite unwieldy to apply to a rectum.

    Cheers for Ada anyway.

  30. Luiz Fernando Alvarez on March 24, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    I’m always amazed with your ability to mix comics, humour and facts.
    Keep up the great work!
    I just suggest you increase the size of the first panel in this post. It’s a little hard to read the small letters. Other than that, everything is perfect! Thanks!

  31. Allegra on March 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I always feel as though Caroline Herschel doesn’t get the rep she deserves. I wasn’t actually going to write anything for Ada Lovelace day, but hell, maybe I will after all…

  32. Bob Bruhin on March 24, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks, @Steve! Somebody had to say that.

  33. Catherine Lathwell on March 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Sydney strikes again!

    Of course, stand behind “rectum”. I agree, you’re right to go with proper terminology.

    Besides, in my family “big ass” is a complement.

  34. Steve F. on March 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Rectum? Damn near killed ‘im!

  35. Bob Bruhin on March 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    “Rectum” is definitely the correct word for several reasons, especially, as you say, because Lady Ada is a scientist first.

  36. bj on March 24, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I always like how “ass” can be used as a sorta backwards double entendre; and whatever is being said is usually pretty funny if it were, instead, to involve a donkey. :-) I’m not as up on Ada’s personality; so I don’t know whether she would play this sort of thing straight or have fun with the plausible deniability of “ass”. Anyway, I like it! And the primary source is priceless!

  37. David H. on March 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    *reads primary source* …man, Caroline Herschel got *rooked.*

  38. Jha on March 24, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I was a bit weirded out when I first saw the text for the single panel (but then, my eyes roam to text first, and takes in visual cues after) but when you said it was a visual pun, I looked again, AND I FUCKING LAUGHED MY ASS OFF. OH MY GOD. CAN I TUMBLR THIS? OH MY GOD. You totally need to post that whole set. Pretty please? Because it’s so freaking brilliant!