Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Bride of Science

I stumbled across a copy of "The Bride of Science" by Benjamin Woolley at Logos recently and, in a fit of excess, bought it.  The book is a biography of Ada Lovelace, who is credited with being the first programmer for her work on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.  (As a side note, she is one of my more favorite historical personages, and she lived in one of my favorite historical periods, so I'm a little biased.)

The book is well written in general, with a bent for dry humor and ironic juxtapositions, and reads more like a novel than a historical treatise. Which is fortunate, given the subject matter: it doesn't shy away from the more torrid aspects of her life (of which there are quite a few), and in fact becomes downright sensationalist at points.  Those looking for an Ada-centric read may want to find another book, as this one strongly frames its discussion of Ada in terms of her parents, particularly her mother, and doesn't dwell on her work with the Analytical Engine for very long.  However, it does give a great deal of insight into her life and thoughts, as well as giving a good look at the intellectual/upper class in the period.

I rather enjoyed the book, but I find anything even mildly relevant to the 19th century interesting.  As far as biographies go, this one is pretty good, and not a hard read at all.  My recommendation: good for those who are interested in Ada and the period in general, bad for those who want to learn more about her relation to the Analytical Engine.
--
Robert Alverson

m*lambda=d*sine(theta)

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