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Unraveling the Myths of Cardano’s Nomenclature

Ever wondered why the ticker of Cardano’s cryptocurrency is “ADA”, or why its wallets are named after Greek myths? What is the project named after in the first place, and who are all the people mentioned in the roadmap release titles? This article will provide a bird’s eye view and links for further reading.
Custom painting that includes Ada Lovelace, Icarus and Daedalus’ labyrinth and Minotaur (source)

Gerolamo Cardano

Gerolamo Cardano (1501–1576) was an Italian mathematician, physicist, biologist, physician, chemist, astrologist, philosopher, writer and gambler. During his lifetime he wrote over 200 scientific works and was one of the key figures in the mathematical field of probability during the Renaissance.

Gerolamo Cardano (source)

For a cryptocurrency project that is looking to utilize rigorous scientific methods based on mathematical proofs and game theory to build a highly flexible and interoperable form of programmable money, adopting the name of this Italian polymath seems very appropriate.

So the Cardano ecosystem is named after Gerolamo Cardano, but why is the ticker-symbol of its actual cryptocurrency “ADA”?

Ada Lovelace (source)

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was an English mathematician and writer that is known for being the first person to recognize that computers could be used for more than just calculations. Lovelace wrote the first algorithm used on a computer, making her the first computer programmer.

One can argue that without Ada Lovelace’s vision, computers as we know them today wouldn’t exist. To honor her vision, the creators of the Cardano ecosystem decided to name the ticker of its cryptocurrency “ADA”, and its smallest sub-unit (0.000001 ADA) a “Lovelace”, similar to how Bitcoin’s smallest sub-unit (0.00000001 BTC) was named “Satoshi”, after its creator.

It is no coincidence that the first stage of the Cardano roadmap that included the ‘birth’ of the ADA cryptocurrency (it’s main-net release in September 2017), was named after Ada Lovelace’s father Lord Byron. Who was he?

Lord Byron (source)

Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron (1788–1824), the 6th Baron Byron, was a British poet, peer, politician and a leading figure in the Romantic movement. One of his best known works was Don Juan, a lengthy satiric poem where Byron portrayed Juan as someone that is easily seduced by women, reversing the legend of Don Juan as an actual womanizer.

Byron was befriended with fellow-poet Percy Busshe Shelley. The second phase of Cardano’s roadmap was named after his wife; Mary Shelley. The Shelley release stands for the evolution of the system into a decentralized, autonomous system. But what does Mary Shelley have to do with this?

Mary Shelley (source)

Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley (1797–1851) was an English author that is best known for writing ‘Frankenstein’, a novel about a scientist that creates a human-like creature after an unorthodox scientific experiment. The novel was the result of a bet between Lord Byron, Percy Busshe Shelley and herself about who could write the best horror story. The novel was first published anonymously and had a considerable influence on literature and popular culture.

Although the Cardano ecosystem doesn’t fit in horror stories, the fact that it will become a fully autonomous system draws comparisons to Shelley’s work. After Shelley, the names of Cardano’s release schedule take a turn, as the third release that focuses on smart contracts is named after Joseph Goguen.

Joseph Goguen (source)

Joseph Goguen

Joseph Goguen (1941–2006) was a computer scientist from the United States that was a professor at the Universities of California and Oxford and had research positions at IBM and SRI International. Goguen’s work focused on algebraic semantics and formal verification.

Goguen’s work inspired Grigore Rosu, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois and CEO of Runtime Verification, to develop the K framework. In the following (4:52 min) video, Rosu explains how he was influenced by Goguen, and how this relates to Cardano.

The K framework is used to formally verify the code of smart contracts, so that they are automatically checked for flaws in order to prevent catastrophic losses such as in the 2016 Ethereum DAO hack. Because many programming languages are defined in K, smart contracts can be written in most popular programming languages while automatically being formally verified after Cardano’s Goguen Release, making it both highly flexible and secure.

After Cardano becomes decentralized in the Shelley release and gets smart contract functionality in the Goguen release, the Bashõ release will focus on making Cardano as efficient as possible, improving its scaleability.

Matsuo Bashõ (source)

Matsuo Bashõ

Matsuo Bashõ (1644–1694) was a famous Japanese poet that was mostly recognized as the greatest master of haiku, a very short Japanese form of poetry in three phrases. For instance, Bashõ’s ‘old pond’ is considered to be the best-known Japanese haiku. It can be translated as follows:

Old pond — frog leaps in — water’s sound.

To appreciate Bashõ’s incredibly wonderful and efficient poetry, the fourth Cardano release that hopes to adopt these same characteristics to allow it to scale as adoption progresses was named after him.

After Bashõ, the fifth and final release will focus on making Cardano sustainable, implementing it’s envisioned treasury model and on-chain governance.

Voltaire (source)

Voltaire

François-Marie Arouet (1694–1778), known as Voltaire, was a French writer, philosopher and historian that was influential during the ‘Age of Enlightenment’. The ideas of the enlightenment movement undermined the authority of the monarchy and church and paved the way for the political revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries. The enlightenment was also marked by an emphasis on the scientific method and reductionism.

Due to its similarities with Voltaire’s vision, the fifth Cardano release that includes the implementation of on-chain governance, utilizing liquid democracy in order to decentralize its governance, was named after him.

Besides governance, one of the most crucial aspects of a blockchain is its consensus mechanism; the rules used to determine which version of a blockchain is the correct one. For Cardano, IOHK collaborated with professor Kayias Aggelos to develop a new consensus mechanism called Ouroboros.

Ouroboros, 1478 (source)

Ouroboros

The Ouroboros is a symbol depicting a serpent or a dragon eating its own tail. Although the name Ouroboros is derived from the ancient Greek οὐροβόρος, its first known appearance was in an ancient Egyptian text (~1400 BC). The reason it relates to Cardano is the the cyclical nature of the consensus mechanism.

The first version of the consensus mechanism was called just ‘Ouroboros’ but is often referred to as ‘Ouroboros Classic’ now, as newer versions have emerged. The second version utilized a different method (Verifiable Random Functions, VRFs) to generate randomness for the protocol and was called ‘Ouroboros Praos’ (Praos is ancient Greek for ‘mild’, ‘gentle’, ‘meek’ or ‘kind’). The third version is called ‘Ouroboros Genesis’ (Genesis is ancient Greek for ‘the beginning’), because it allows new users joining the blockchain to bootstrap from the genesis block (the first block in the blockchain). The fourth version will focus on sharding, a form of horizontal partitioning of a database that helps to spread the load. Because of the multifaceted nature of this fourth version, it is appropriately called ‘Ouroboros Hydra’, after a serpentine water monster with many heads in ancient Greek and Roman mythology.

Last but not least, there are two more Greek myths that are referred to in Cardano and are worth sharing.

Daedalus, the Minotaur and the labyrinth (source)

Daedalus

In ancient Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful craftsman, innovator and artist. He was first mentioned in the famous book Iliad of Homer. On the Greek island of Crete, Daedalus was employed by king Minos and developed the labyrinth where the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull was trapped.

In Cardano, the official wallet was named after Daedalus, whereas a picture of a Minotaur with a labyrinth on its head is used as its logo, referring to the complex cryptographic protocols used. Besides Daedalus, Input Output Hong Kong (IOHK), the company developing Cardano, also created an open-source prototype for a light wallet that can be used by developers to make their own implementations. They called this wallet Icarus, after the son of Daedalus.

Daedalus and Icarus (source)

Icarus

Finally, in Homer’s ancient Greek story mentioned before, Daedalus and his son Icarus later attempt to escape from Crete that Daedalus constructed from feathers and wax. In the story, Daedalus warns Icarus of complacency and hubris, asking his son not to fly too low or too high, as the sea’s dampness could clog his wings and the sun’s heat could melt them. However, Icarus ignored Daedalus’ instructions and flew too lose to the sun, melting the wax in his wings and drowning in the sea after he fell down from the sky.

In Cardano, the Icarus light wallet prototype was used by Emurgo to develop Yoroi (Japanese for ‘armor), a Chrome-based light wallet.

This article is also available in Russian and Spanish.

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Disclaimer: This article was written for informational and educational purposes only and should not be treated as investment advice.

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