Making Machines: Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace

An image of two books: 'The Science of Life and Death in Frankenstein' and 'Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist'


Making machines: Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace

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 Monday 13 June 2022

 5–6pm (BST)


  Free event, booking required

Booking for this event is now closed.

About the event

Join our experts live in conversation as they consider the thinking of two great 19th century women writers exploring the boundary between human and machine. Using the notebooks of Sir Humphry Davy, an influence on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the surviving manuscripts of the novel itself, Professor Sharon Ruston will consider Shelley’s thought-process in writing and how far the Creature might be thought of as crossing a boundary between automaton and man.  

Professor Ursula Martin will reflect on Ada Lovelace’s work exploring algorithms finding patterns in nature and her conjecture on the capabilities ‘beyond number’ of Charles Babbage’s unbuilt Analytical Engine. She will discuss Lovelace’s letter speculating on how a ‘calculus of the nervous system’ would aid understanding of the human mind.

The event is part of ‘Imagining AI’, which celebrates objects in the Bodleian's collections that explore the boundary between human and machine.


Professor Ursula Martin, Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, author of Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist (2018).

Professor Sharon Ruston, Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University, author of The Science of Life and Death in Frankenstein (2021).

 Booking information

When you have booked your place, the ticketing system will send you an automated confirmation.

A Zoom link and instructions to access the lecture will be sent on the morning of Monday 13 June to the email address associated with your booking. Please check your junk/spam email folder. If you have not received this link 3 hours before the event please email:


This event is generously supported by The Helen Hamlyn Trust.

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