----- Original Message -----
From Carolyn Kunin
Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2003 12:04 PM
Subject: Re: Ada Lovelace reference in Ada

----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2003 1:44 PM
Subject: Ada Lovelace reference in Ada

Assuming this has not previously been noted, I have had the luck of finding in Nabokov's Ada a clear reference to Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace :

"Ada was transformed into a sort of graceful computing machine, endowed, moreover, with phenomenal luck, and would greatly surpass baffled Van in acumen, foresight and exploitation of chance..."

Ada Lovelace made her enduring reputation by her ability to program and understand Babbage's two computing machines, the "Analytical Engine" and the "Difference Engine." To quote from Joan Baum's The Caldulating Passion of Ada Byron (1986), "the actual program [was] a means to generate a complicated sequence in the caluculus known as the Bernoulli numbers ..."

I still do not know how or in what context Nabokov would have known of Ada Lovelace. The Encylopedia Britannica (1960) says nothing of her mathematical achievements and the recognition of her achievements was not generally known until 1980. Possibly a biography of Byron may have discussed this, or perhaps Nabokov's 1960ish knowledge of mathematics was more sophisticated than has been supposed?