A biography of Ada Lovelace, widely celebrated as the first computer programmer.
McCully juxtaposes the analytical genius of her subject with her humanizing flaws and personality, painting a portrait of a turbulent soul and a visionary intellect whose promise was cut short by early death. After the acrimonious end of Lord and Lady Byron’s relationship, the intelligent Lady Byron sought to distance Ada from both her father himself and his unstable tendencies by giving her a challenging education focused on rational pursuits, math, and science. Lady Byron’s portrayal is complex—she’s cold and self-centered but determined to provide academic opportunities for her daughter. The book follows Ada’s education with her marriage and death from uterine cancer, but both the book and Ada focus on her collaborator, Charles Babbage. A temporary textual shift to focus on Babbage provides necessary context, establishing how advanced and revolutionary Babbage’s Difference Engine and Analytical Engine designs were. And yet, Ada was able to see far beyond his visions, conceptualizing the potential of modern computers and predicting such programming techniques like loops. McCully demonstrates that although Ada had the potential to achieve more, she was hampered by sexism, ill health, and a temperament akin to her father’s. Appendices summarize Lovelace’s notes on the Analytical Engine and present the British Association for the Advancement of Science’s rationale for refusing to support its construction.
A sophisticated yet accessible piece that humanizes a tragic, brilliant dreamer. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, index [not seen]) (Biography. 10-14)