Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age

Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age

by James Essinger


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“[Ada Lovelace], like Steve Jobs, stands at the intersection of arts and technology."—Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators

Over 150 years after her death, a widely-used scientific computer program was named “Ada,” after Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of the eighteenth century’s version of a rock star, Lord Byron. Why?

Because, after computer pioneers such as Alan Turing began to rediscover her, it slowly became apparent that she had been a key but overlooked figure in the invention of the computer.

In Ada Lovelace, James Essinger makes the case that the computer age could have started two centuries ago if Lovelace’s contemporaries had recognized her research and fully grasped its implications.

It’s a remarkable tale, starting with the outrageous behavior of her father, which made Ada instantly famous upon birth. Ada would go on to overcome numerous obstacles to obtain a level of education typically forbidden to women of her day. She would eventually join forces with Charles Babbage, generally credited with inventing the computer, although as Essinger makes clear, Babbage couldn’t have done it without Lovelace. Indeed, Lovelace wrote what is today considered the world’s first computer program—despite opposition that the principles of science were “beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application.”

Based on ten years of research and filled with fascinating characters and observations of the period, not to mention numerous illustrations, Essinger tells Ada’s fascinating story in unprecedented detail to absorbing and inspiring effect.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612194080
Publisher: Melville House Publishing
Publication date: 10/14/2014
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

JAMES ESSINGER is a writer with a particular interest in the history of ideas that have had a practical impact on the modern world. His previous book, Jacquard’s Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age (2004), was chosen as one of the top 5 popular science books of the year by the Economist.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 Poetic Beginnings 3

2 Lord Byron: A Scandalous Ancestry 9

3 Annabella: Anglo-Saxon Attitudes 21

4 The Manor of Parallelograms 33

5 The Art of Flying 47

6 Love 57

7 Silken Threads 69

8 When Ada Met Charles 79

9 The Thinking Machine 85

10 Kinship 95

11 Mad Scientist 99

12 The Analytical Engine 113

13 The Jacquard Loom 131

14 A Mind with a View 149

15 Ada's Offer to Babbage 181

16 The Enchantress of Number 193

17 A Horrible Death 201

18 Redemption 229

Afterword 237

Sources 239

Further Reading 243

Acknowledgements 245

Index 247

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