Two hundred years after her birth in 1815, the world is finally beginning to pay attention to Ada Byron Lovelace, considered by many to be the inventor of computer programming.
Computer scientist and debut author Wallmark introduces her subject as a child fascinated by numbers, lucky enough to be born to a geometry-loving mother with the means and inclination to nurture her daughter’s talents. She focuses on her subject’s adolescence, choosing details that highlight Lovelace’s development as a mathematical genius. The girl sketches models for flying machines, works endless calculations to compute the wings’ power—young readers will sympathize as they hear how “writing for so long made her fingers hurt”—and studies a toy boat to see how minute adjustments to its sails affect its speed. A bout of measles that leaves her temporarily blind and paralyzed serves to further hone her brilliance, as her mother drills her with math problems. She is perfectly positioned for her fateful meeting with Charles Babbage, whose proposed Analytical Engine prompts her to write the algorithm (described as “a set of mathematical instructions”) that becomes the world’s very first computer program. Chu’s illustrations, digitally colored in a deep, jewel-toned palette, accompany the lively prose. Lovelace is a Pre-Raphaelite beauty set against a backdrop of teeming Victorian interiors littered with diagrams and pages of figures; children will enjoy spotting the girl’s loyal cat.
A splendidly inspiring introduction to an unjustly overlooked woman. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)