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
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Known in her own day as an “enchantress of numbers,” Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, was one of the most fascinating women of the 19th century. In collaboration with Charles Babbage, inventor of the mechanical “thinking machine” that anticipated by more than a century the invention of the computer, Ada devised a method of using punchcards to calculate Bernoulli numbers, and thus became the mother of computer programming. It was in her honor that, in 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense named its computer language “Ada.” In this critically acclaimed biography, author Benjamin Woolley portrays Ada Byron’s life as the embodiment of the schism between the worlds of Romanticism and scientific rationalism. He describes how Ada’s efforts to bridge these opposites with a “poetical science” was the driving force behind one of the most remarkable careers of the Victorian Age. A brilliant chronicle of an extraordinary life in math and science and an enthralling rumination on the death of Romanticism and the birth of the Machine Age, The Bride of Science offers thought-provoking insights into the seemingly irreconcilable opposition between art and science that continues to haunt us today.

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From the Back Cover:

Known in her day as the "Enchantress of Numbers," Ada Lovelace was one of the most fascinating women of the 19th century. She rubbed elbows with many of the brightest scientific lights of her day, including the brilliant experimentalists Michael Faraday and Andrew Crosse­­arguably the model for Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein. She was the protégé of the "Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science," Mary Sommerville. And, with mathematician Charles Babbage, inventor of the Analytical Engine­­the mechanical "thinking machine" that anticipated the modern computer by more than a century­­she developed a set of instructions for mechanically calculating Bernoulli numbers, in effect, creating the first computer program. In recognition of her accomplishment, the US Department of Defense, in 1980, named its standard programming language, "Ada," thus, nearly one hundred and thirty years after her death, granting her the immortality she so craved.

Yet, as noted British journalist Benjamin Woolley reveals in this captivating, finely-nuanced portrait of that remarkable woman, Ada was far from being the cool and dispassionate exemplar of the modern scientific spirit. Born in 1815, the product of one of the most sensational (and disastrous) marriages of the 19th century­­that between the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" poet, Lord Byron and the celebrated intellectual reformist Annabella Milbanke­­Ada, perhaps more than any other figure of the early Victorian period, came to embody the widening rift between the worlds of Romanticism, typified by her brilliant, sybaritic father, and of reason and technology represented by her severe mother. In The Bride of Science, Woolley vividly details how, throughout her brief life, Ada struggled to reconcile those opposites, sometimes with disastrous results. He relates how, in her efforts to appease her "wayward" passions and to satisfy an equally powerful desire to leave her stamp upon the face of science, she openly experimented with the social and sexual conventions of her day, dabbled in the "dangerous" new ideas of mesmerism, phrenology, and materialism, and, ultimately, formulated the concept of a "poetical science" with which she hoped to bridge the gap between imagination and reason.

The Bride of Science is both the story of a life lived passionately and an intriguing rumination on the death of Romanticism and the birth of the Machine Age, offering profound insights into the seemingly irreconcilable gulf between art and science that persists to this day.

"A splendid and enthralling portrait."
­­The Sunday Times (London)

"It's a thriller."
­­New Scientist

"Her life spanned the era that began with the Battle of Waterloo and ended with the Great Exhibition­­a period of barely forty years that saw the world transformed. This was the age when social, intellectual and technological developments opened up deep fissured in culture, when romance began to split away from reason, instinct from intellect, art from science. Ada came to embody these new polarities. She struggled to reconcile them, and they tore her apart."
­­The Bride of Science

About the Author:

Benjamin Woolley is a writer and broadcaster who has contributed to numerous BBC programs, including a Horizon on artificial life and a Bookmark on Aldous Huxley. His articles have appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, and the Times Literary Supplement. His first book, Virtual Worlds, examined the cultural impact of computer simulation and virtual reality.

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9781447272540: The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason and Byron's Daughter

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