Maths genius with Seaham links one of only two women to feature in new UK passport design

The new passport design is unveiled at Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London, which features Ada Lovelace.
The new passport design is unveiled at Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London, which features Ada Lovelace.
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A mathematician whose famous parents celebrated their ill-fated union at a marriage ceremony at Seaham Hall has become one of just two women to feature in the new UK passport design.

Ada Lovelace, along with architect Elisabeth Scott, is depicted in the latest version of the travel document unveiled today.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

By contrast, seven men including William Shakespeare, artist John Constable and sculptor Anish Kapoor are represented either in portraits or through their achievements.

Lovelace, born on December 10, 1815, is the daughter of Lord Byron and Lady Anne Isabella Milbanke Byron, who married at Seaham Hall on January 2, that year.

Byron did not last his own honeymoon without having an incestuous affair with his sister, and after squandering money, left Ada and her mother when she was five weeks old.

Her mother ensured she was immersed in the world of maths and logic in the hope of steering her away from poetry, and while Victorian society dictated young women were meek and mild mannered, Ada was none of these things.

It wasn’t something where we said let’s set out to only have two women.

Mark Thomson, director general of the Passport Office

She was best known for her detailed notes on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine and has been hailed as a symbol for women in science - computer pioneer Babbage is among the men recognised in the new passport.

London-born Lovelace’s work has previously been celebrated by Seaham’s artist as a daughter of the town.

A day to celebrate her work was held on Tuesday, October 13, to mark the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

The new 34-page passport’s theme is “Creative United Kingdom”, which official literature said features “some of the best achievements of the last 500 years in Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Mark Thomson, director general of the Passport Office, has defended the design.

He said: “It wasn’t something where we said let’s set out to only have two women.

“In trying to celebrate the UK’s creativity we tried to get a range of locations and things around the country to celebrate our triumphs over the years, so there we are.”

Asked about the omission of female icons such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, he said: “Whenever we do these things there is always someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book.

“We’ve got 16 pages, a very finite space.

“We like to feel we’ve got a good representative view celebrating some real icons of the UK- Shakespeare, Constable and of course Elisabeth Scott herself.”

Scott designed the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932.

The designs were said to have been developed by the Passport Office in consultation with designers and printers and authorised by ministers .

As well as Shakespeare, Constable and Kapoor, the new book features architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, artist Sir Antony Gormley and John Harrison, a clockmaker who invented the marine timekeeper.

Other pages are devoted to Stephenson’s Rocket - the world’s first modern steam locomotive, the London Underground, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and cultural festivals such as Caribbean carnivals and Chinese New Year.

A portrait of Shakespeare is used for the security watermark on each page.