James Essinger – Ada’s Algorithm.

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Ada’s Algorithm – James Essinger (2014, Melville House Publishing, London)

Did the daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron really “launch the digital age,” as this book from British writer James Essinger claims?  Whether or not Ada Lovelace truly wrote (recognized?) the first computer program, there is no denying her influence on the work of inventor and mathematician Charles Babbage, a close friend and creator of the Difference and Analytical Engines (which, although never realized in his lifetime, were prototypes of early computers).

Dominated by her intelligent, forceful mother and shadowed for her entire life by the memory of her very famous, very absent father, Ada’s astounding mathematical prowess was constantly tempered by the fact that she was a woman living in what was very much a man’s world – she simply was not taken seriously by academia, not 150 years ago, and not even until recently (and there are still detractors).   Essinger’s well-researched book enthusiastically immerses the reader in Ada’s time and place, chronicling her life (including dishing the dirt on all of her relatives and friends) and her work (in particular her published Notes, about Babbage’s Analytical Engine).  This meeting of history and computer technology is a fascinating read.

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