The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter

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9780071373296: The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter

Lady Lovelace, Ada Byron, daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron, wrote a plan to use Charles Babbage's "thinking machine" to calculate Bernoulli numbers and to many she is considered to be the world's first computer programmer. Her attempts to reconcile the world of Romanticism and the world of science and machines, to create a "poetical science" helped her to produce a remarkable career in the Victorian age. This biography offers a look at her life in maths and science and analyzes the death of Romanticism and the birth of the machine age.

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Ada Lovelace, the result of Lord Byron's short- lived marriage to Annabella Milbanke, is an extraordinary figure in 19th-century society. Not only was she the daughter of a celebrity, but she was the first computer programmer the world has known.

From the moment she was born, in 1815, Ada was a controversial figure. Her mother, a woman known for her piety and intellect, had fled the marital home taking her three-week-old baby with her. In this first comprehensive biography of Lovelace, Benjamin Woolley contends that the child embodied a chasm between Romanticism as represented by her father, and Reason as represented by his wife. He examines how, as an adult, she struggled to reconcile these opposites by creating a "poetical science". But first he deals with her childhood. We learn of Annabella's ferocious educational regime, and a young girl who, understandably, took refuge in the imagination.

Woolley's achievement is in making accessible the scientific theories that absorbed Lovelace and that led to her breakthrough in computer science. His approach to her work is grounded in her domestic setting which he portrays as oppressive, and as hastening her early death in 1852 from cervical cancer. The Bride of Science is a powerful piece of work, entirely appropriate for a revolutionary woman. --Lilian Pizzichini

Review:

"This book is a natural for handselling, not only to the literati interested in all things Byronic, but to cyberfolk, many of whom will be aware of Ada's early work in computers."

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