Oct 15, 2013

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day at the Library

Today is the fifth annual Ada Lovelace Day, a day dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and maths). Ada Lovelace Day has become quite popular in my particular corner of the Internet, but as I’ve mentioned before, if there’s one thing working in libraries has made me realise it’s that sometimes there’s surprisingly little overlap between what’s really popular online and what’s part of the public consciousness offline. So this year I thought I’d celebrate Ada Lovelace Day by bringing it to the attention of people who may not have heard of it before. And what better way to achieve that than to make a display at a large and very busy public library?

I’ll start by showing you a panorama of my display:


Here’s the top shelf, with a small poster with biographical information about a few renowned women scientists: Ada Lovelace herself (of course), Mary Anning, Dorothy Hodgkin, Chien-Shiung Wu, Rachel Carson and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.

And no, your eyes do not deceive you: that is indeed one of the best xkcds ever on the other side.

Detail of the decorations:

The middle shelves:

...and the bottom shelves:


Here’s a full list of the books included in the display — I tried to include not only biographies or books about women scientists but also books by them:

  • Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox (which I’ve read and adored)
  • Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd
  • Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life by Georgina Ferry
  • Ada Lovelace: The Computer Wizard of Victorian England by Lucy Lethbridge
  • Scientists Anonymous: Great Stories of Women in Science by Patricia Fara (dying to read this one myself.)
  • The Canon: The Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier
  • The Myth of Mars and Venus by Deborah Cameron (awesome social linguistics for the win.)
  • Discovering Dorothea: The Life of the Pioneering Fossil-Hunter Dorothea Bate by Karolyn Shindler
  • Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres: Deciphering the Ends of DNA by Catherine Brady
  • Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales from the Annals of Physics by Jennifer Ouellette
  • The Curies by Denis Brian
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (which I really need to read. I wanted to have included more fiction, but stories featuring women scientists are a bit hard to find unless you know exactly what you’re looking for.)
  • Mary Somerville and the World of Science by Allan Chapman
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • A Mind of Its Own by Cordelia Fine (since we don’t have Delusions of Gender. I know *cries*)
  • The Planets by Dava Sobel

    As you can imagine, working on this display was a little bit disastrous for my wishlist. In the spirit of Ada Lovelace Day, feel free to tell me what you’d add to this list. Can you think of books about some of your favourite women scientists? If not, a personal story in the comments would be just as good or better.

    Previous Ada Lovelace Day Celebrations:

  • 2012: I reviewed The Madame Curie Complex by Julie Des Jardins
  • 2011: I posted a collection of Ada Lovelace Day related links
  • 2010: I put together an Ada Lovelace Day Reading List
  • 7 comments:

    1. I've been meaning to read the Rosalind Franklin bio - glad to hear it's a good read. Yeah for women in science!

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    2. Oh man. What a great idea. I don't work until late today... but next year!

      (All our available display space is taken up with Alice Munro right now, too, which is hard to argue with...)

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    3. One I haven't read but would love to is A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock. I can say with absolute certainty that your work on this awesome display is going to do major damage to more than just your own wishlist. *grabs pen and starts feverishly writing down many titles*

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    4. Great display (love that you included xkcd in there). Don't forget to re-blog this, as we discussed previously, if you still want to :)

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    5. Happy Ada Lovelace Day, Ana! I loved your display at your library! Sometimes I am so jealous of you - you get to show off your favourite books as part of your work :) The readers who come to your library are so lucky - envy them so much! I was so happy to see my favourite Natalie Angier's book on the beautiful basics of science. I loved your review of that book. She is a real inspiration. Thanks for sharing your Ada Lovelace Day celebrations.

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    6. Gah, I just love so much what you do as a librarian :) You're the definition of what a true gift a great librarian can be to someone. And having said that, I'm bookmarking this post so that I can read some of these wonderful sounding books!

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    7. If you ever fancy reading some of Lovelace's own letters and papers then Betty A Toole's Ada: Enchantress of Numbers is well worth a read. I reviewed it here (http://alexinleeds.com/2012/10/15/review-ada-the-enchantress-of-numbers-by-betty-a-toole/) and Betty kindly commented to advise it's now re-released as an ebook. I love a good biography but there's something wonderful about hearing her thoughts in her own words too. :)

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.