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Synopsis: Ada Byron never knew her father, the poet, who fled England shortly after her birth. Her mother, determined to discipline out of the child her estranged and notorious husband's passionate Romanticism, had Ada study mathematical calculation. The conflict between Lady Byron's program for her daughter and Byron's genetic programming makes a fascinating story. Ada's intellectual mentor was Charles Babbage, generally called the "Father of the Computer." His Analytical Engine - an elaborate imagined system of gears, wheels, and levers - was never built, but Ada was the first to see from mechanical drawings that the machine, in theory, could be programmed. She published her insight as "Notes" to her translation of an Italian lecture on the Analytical Engine, but her achievement was not recognized officially until 1980 when the U.S. Department of Defense named its new super computer language ADA. Unlike other recent writers on the Countess of Lovelace, Joan Baum does justice both to Ada and to her genuine contribution to the history of science. Rather than force tenuous conclusions about this driven personality, Baum appreciates the enigma of a complex young woman who, regardless of motives, anticipated one of the twentieth century's most significant developments.
From Library Journal:
This is a well-written biography of Countess Lovelace, Augusta Ada Byron King, daughter of Lord and Lady Byron. Byron has recently gained fame for her explanatory notes on Charles Babbage's analytical engine, which constitute the first explanation of the concept of computer programming. In recognition of her efforts, the Department of Defense christened its most recent programming language ADA. A gifted mathematician in a time when women didn't do mathematics, Byron had a complex and contradictory nature. She died in 1852 at the age of 37, and her contribution to our understanding of computers went unappreciated for more than 100 years. This treatment of her life is well documented, portrays an intriguing time period for would-be women scientists, and presents an unusual viewpoint. Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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