In honor of Ada, Countess of Lovelace

[ by Charles Cameron — childhood memories, computer history, creative thinking, analogy, bead game ]



This menacing old pile, Horsley Towers — John Julius Norwich said of it in his Architecture of southern England, “The over-riding idiom seems to be vaguely Italianate Gothic, but in reality East Horsley is like nothing but itself, a grotesque Victorian Disneyland which has to be seen to be believed – and may not be even then” — was home to Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, and I have special reasons to honor her.


For one thing, I grew up inside these gate-towers, in the last little house before the Lovelace estate proper began, and certain features of the first fields on the way to the big pile were my childhood haunts, the old oak with its dark and mysterious hollow wound, the clovered grass and cow pats, the small mound for boyish climbing, the bramble bushes with their delicious blackberries…


But it is as a devotee of Hermann Hesse‘s great Bead Game that I want to celebrate Ada Lovelace today —


for she illustrates to perfection the importance of cross-disciplinary analogies in creativity.


Consider this diagram from Mark Turner‘s The artful mind: cognitive science and the riddle of human creativity, based on those in Arthur Koestler‘s The Act of Creation (eg those on pp 35 and 37):


Hesse proposes — in his Nobel-winning novel, the Glass Bead Game (aka Magister Ludi) the building of an architecture of ideas in which the great works of human culture are linked — bound together — by analogies between them.

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