Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine. As a result, she is sometimes regarded as the first to recognise the full potential of a "computing machine" and one of the first computer programmers.
Augusta Byron was the only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron and his wife Lady Byron. All of Byron's other children were born out of wedlock to other women. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later. He commemorated the parting in a poem that begins, "Is thy face like thy mother's my fair child! ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?". He died of disease in the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Her mother remained bitter and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing her father's perceived insanity. Despite this, Ada remained interested in Byron, naming her two sons Byron and Gordon. Upon her eventual death, she was buried next to him at her request. Although often ill in her childhood, Ada pursued her studies assiduously. She married William King in 1835. King was made Earl of Lovelace in 1838, Ada thereby becoming Countess of Lovelace.
Her educational and social exploits brought her into contact with scientists such as Andrew Crosse, Charles Babbage, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Michael Faraday and the author Charles Dickens, contacts which she used to further her education. Ada described her approach as "poetical science" and herself as an "Analyst (& Metaphysician)".
When she was a teenager, her mathematical talents led her to a long working relationship and friendship with fellow British mathematician Charles Babbage, who is known as "the father of computers". She was in particular interested in Babbage's work on the Analytical Engine. Lovelace first met him in June 1833, through their mutual friend, and her private tutor, Mary Somerville.
Between 1842 and 1843, Ada translated an article by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea on the calculating engine, supplementing it with an elaborate set of notes, simply called Notes. These notes contain what many consider to be the first computer program—that is, an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine. Other historians reject this perspective and point out that Babbage's personal notes from the years 1836/1837 contain the first programs for the engine. Lovelace's notes are important in the early history of computers. She also developed a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, while many others, including Babbage himself, focused only on those capabilities. Her mindset of "poetical science" led her to ask questions about the Analytical Engine (as shown in her notes) examining how individuals and society relate to technology as a collaborative tool.
She died of uterine cancer in 1852 at the age of 36.
- "Ada Lovelace" | 2012-12-10 | 39 Upvotes 4 Comments
Alan Mathison Turing (; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was not fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime, due to his homosexuality, and because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.
During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. For a time he led Hut 8, the section that was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Here, he devised a number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bombe method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic, and in so doing helped win the war. Due to the problems of counterfactual history, it is hard to estimate the precise effect Ultra intelligence had on the war, but at the upper end it has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.
After the war Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the Automatic Computing Engine. The Automatic Computing Engine was one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory, at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s.
Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 had mandated that "gross indecency" was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES, as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.
In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.
- "Alan Turing's 100th Birthday - Mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, scientist" | 2012-06-22 | 146 Upvotes 19 Comments
- "Happy Birthday, Alan Turing" | 2011-06-23 | 78 Upvotes 6 Comments
In criminal law, Blackstone's ratio (also known as the Blackstone ratio or Blackstone's formulation) is the idea that:
It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.
As expressed by the English jurist William Blackstone in his seminal work, Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760s.
The idea subsequently became a staple of legal thinking in Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions and continues to be a topic of debate. There is also a long pre-history of similar sentiments going back centuries in a variety of legal traditions. The message that government and the courts must err on the side of innocence has remained constant.
Bovril is the trademarked name of a thick and salty meat extract paste similar to a yeast extract, developed in the 1870s by John Lawson Johnston. It is sold in a distinctive, bulbous jar, and also as cubes and granules. Bovril is owned and distributed by Unilever UK.
Bovril can be made into a drink by diluting with hot water or, less commonly, with milk. It can be used as a flavouring for soups, broth, stews or porridge, or as a spread, especially on toast in a similar fashion to Marmite and Vegemite.
- "Bovril" | 2015-11-17 | 29 Upvotes 15 Comments
Charles Babbage (; 26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English polymath. A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage originated the concept of a digital programmable computer.
Considered by some to be a father of the computer, Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex electronic designs, though all the essential ideas of modern computers are to be found in Babbage's Analytical Engine. His varied work in other fields has led him to be described as "pre-eminent" among the many polymaths of his century.
Parts of Babbage's incomplete mechanisms are on display in the Science Museum in London. In 1991, a functioning difference engine was constructed from Babbage's original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage's machine would have worked.
- "Charles Babbage" | 2015-08-17 | 17 Upvotes 5 Comments
The Charter of the Forest of 1217 (Latin: Carta Foresta) is a charter that re-established for free men rights of access to the royal forest that had been eroded by William the Conqueror and his heirs. Many of its provisions were in force for centuries afterwards. It was originally sealed in England by the young King Henry III, acting under the regency of William Marshall, 1st Earl of Pembroke. It was in many ways a companion document to Magna Carta, and redressed some applications of the Anglo-Norman Forest Law that had been extended and abused by William Rufus.
- "Charter of the Forest" | 2019-09-21 | 38 Upvotes 7 Comments
The Great Vowel Shift was a series of changes in the pronunciation of the English language that took place primarily between 1400 and 1700, beginning in southern England and today having influenced effectively all dialects of English. Through this vowel shift, the pronunciation of all Middle English long vowels was changed. Some consonant sounds changed as well, particularly those that became silent; the term Great Vowel Shift is sometimes used to include these consonant changes.
English spelling began to become standardized in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Great Vowel Shift is the major reason English spellings now often considerably deviate from how they represent pronunciations. The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by Otto Jespersen (1860–1943), a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the term.
The Groom of the Stool (formally styled: "Groom of the King's Close Stool") was the most intimate of an English monarch's courtiers, responsible for assisting the king in excretion and ablution.
The physical intimacy of the role naturally led to his becoming a man in whom much confidence was placed by his royal master and with whom many royal secrets were shared as a matter of course. This secret information—while it would never have been revealed, for it would have led to the discredit of his honour—in turn led to his becoming feared and respected and therefore powerful within the royal court in his own right. The office developed gradually over decades and centuries into one of administration of the royal finances, and under Henry VII, the Groom of the Stool became a powerful official involved in setting national fiscal policy, under the "chamber system".
Later, the office was renamed Groom of the Stole. The Tudor historian David Starkey classes this change as classic Victorianism: "When the Victorians came to look at this office, they spelt it s-t-o-l-e, and imagined all kinds of fictions about elaborate robes draped around the neck of the monarch at the coronation;" however, the change is in fact seen as early as the 17th century.
- "Groom of the Stool" | 2019-07-19 | 25 Upvotes 11 Comments
Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Day, Bonfire Night (predominantly Newfoundland) and Firework Night, is an annual commemoration observed on 5 November, primarily in the United Kingdom. Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605 O.S., when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure.
Within a few decades Gunpowder Treason Day, as it was known, became the predominant English state commemoration, but as it carried strong Protestant religious overtones it also became a focus for anti-Catholic sentiment. Puritans delivered sermons regarding the perceived dangers of popery, while during increasingly raucous celebrations common folk burnt effigies of popular hate-figures, such as the pope. Towards the end of the 18th century reports appear of children begging for money with effigies of Guy Fawkes and 5 November gradually became known as Guy Fawkes Day. Towns such as Lewes and Guildford were in the 19th century scenes of increasingly violent class-based confrontations, fostering traditions those towns celebrate still, albeit peaceably. In the 1850s changing attitudes resulted in the toning down of much of the day's anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the Observance of 5th November Act was repealed in 1859. Eventually the violence was dealt with, and by the 20th century Guy Fawkes Day had become an enjoyable social commemoration, although lacking much of its original focus. The present-day Guy Fawkes Night is usually celebrated at large organised events, centred on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays.
Settlers exported Guy Fawkes Night to overseas colonies, including some in North America, where it was known as Pope Day. Those festivities died out with the onset of the American Revolution. Claims that Guy Fawkes Night was a Protestant replacement for older customs like Samhain are disputed, although another old celebration, Halloween, has lately increased in popularity in England, and according to some writers, may threaten the continued observance of 5 November.
- "Guy Fawkes Day" | 2011-11-05 | 11 Upvotes 4 Comments
Kane Kramer is a British inventor and businessman. He is credited with the initial invention of the digital audio player, in 1979.
- "Kane Kramer is credited with inventing the digital audio player in 1979" | 2012-10-21 | 68 Upvotes 27 Comments