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

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3.30  ·  Rating details ·  1,235 ratings  ·  194 reviews
“[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
...more
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Melville House (first published 2013)
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Heather Victoria
Nov 10, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to read this, but the writing was terrible. Commentary on Ada Lovelace somehow sounded condescending and juvenile at the same time. I couldn't get past the beginning chapters. The biography follows a direction that makes very little sense. Would love to read more about her by a more competent writer.
Nicholas
Ada's Algorithm has its moments, but suffers from the same problem as Hedy's Folly; it feels like an inordinate amount of time is spent on the man Ada's usually been stuck in the shadow of: Charles Babbage. At least this time I understand it a little bit more. Lovelace's monumental claim to fame is razor thin. The entirety of her professional work in the area of mathematics and information science can be found in a single document: a translation from the Italian of Luigi Menabrea's memoir on ...more
Janta
This is a fairly short book. In reading it, I frequently felt like the author had "padded" the book with irrelevant detail (e.g., a mention of Charles Dickens includes his birth date and the aside that his birthday made him "a few months shy of being exactly older than Ada by four years"); it put me in mind of writing high school and college papers where there was a word count and every extra word you could cram in was important. The subject matter seemed a little haphazardly organized as well: ...more
Lola
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am many things. I am a reader, a writer, a cat lover, a history nerd, and a feminist. Most importantly, I am a book opportunist. What could this mean? It means that, whenever I have a research paper or project in which I am able to chose the topic, I pick something that has a book related to it on my to-read list. This way, I can buy and read books I actually want to read and count it as my schoolwork in my schedule. I kill two birds with one stone, and I usually get an A because my ...more
Kat Chen
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Honestly, this book disappointed me. I purchased this novel from the MIT press bookstore, high on a wave of feminism and the desire to learn more about early engineers. Though this book did provide an excellent background history on both Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Lord Byron, it was disappointing in all other aspects. At times, the word choice was confusing. It seemed that the author chose words with discrete double meanings, in which both meanings could apply in that situation. At other ...more
Poppy
I found this biography by chance in a charity shop, just after wondering whether I'd find a book about Ada Lovelace there. Naturally I was thrilled, and started reading it straight away. But I found it a bit disappointing - the subject matter is infinitely interesting, and I liked how we were given a good background about Ada's parents, but in the second half I felt like it just became a biography about Charles Babbage. Now I understand that you can't have one without the other, but I found that ...more
BookishWordish
There was a lot of focus on Ada's father, and I understand why. I mean... it's hard NOT to write about Lord Byron, considering how interesting (read: wild) his life was. But this isn't meant to be a book about Lord Byron, is it? So that was frustrating.

When it wasn't talking about Byron, there was a lot of discussion about Ada's social life- placing her in the wider social context of her time. Which is fine. It makes sense. It's important. But there was a lot of that, and this isn't a very long
...more
Hannah
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a delightful account of Ada's life. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship with Charles Babbage. Essinger's book is very readable and entertaining. We often think of math being so cut and dry, but Ada really used it in an imaginative way. It makes me want to start to learn programming.
Amy
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Wonderful book about Ada Lovelace which gives a clear picture about not only the woman but also the people and society around her.
Brian Clegg
Women in science have, without doubt, had a bad press, though thankfully this has now been reversed. There was a time when the likes of Caroline Herschel, Henrietta Leavitt, Emmy Noether and even relatively modern figures such as Rosalind Franklin and Jocelyn Burnell would have had their roles played down by the science writing community. Now, these individuals are rightly feted. But there is also the danger that, in the rush to right past wrongs, we overemphasise some individual's roles - not ...more
Margaret
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is definitely another case of I was going to like the book regardless of how it was written because the subject was fascinating. Ada Lovelace was someone I was eager to read about. But a note to biographers of women in STEM: I'm here to read about their work, not your speculation about their lovelife. This is the second book I've read in the past couple months that devotes a disproportionate amount of time to that when there's no evidence one way or the other and it doesn't even matter.
Katherine Payne
Take this book with a pinch of salt. Essinger provides a lot of hearsay and unconfident assertions with phrases like ‘there is evidence’ – what evidence? For an introduction into Ada’s life it does the job, but might be best read alongside other biographies. It definitely feels padded out purposefully by full letters rather than extracts and heavy biographical info on Charles Babbage, who isn’t necessarily who you read for.
Liz Blake
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating
LAPL Reads
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the brilliant and disturbed poet who died at thirty-six after living a life of excessive debauchery. Her mother came from a wealthy, fairly open-minded family, and for a woman at that time she received a somewhat decent education. The marriage lasted a little over a year, when Lady Byron took the young baby, and ran away from her controlling husband. Because Lord Byron had led a most profligate life, rife with an abuse of drugs and sex, ...more
Miles
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The author argues, persuasively, that it was Lady Ada Lovelace herself, and not her mentor, the scientist Charles Babbage, who truly grasped the potential of algorithmic computation. The year of her great work was 1843. In the misogyny of the time, even the wealthy Ada Lovelace feared to sign her name to the 20,000 word scientific paper that was appended to her translation of a French scientific paper about Babbage's Difference Engine. A paper by a woman would not be taken seriously. But in that ...more
Ineffablyschmoo
This book was ok as a read but never quite achieved lift-off.

I was attracted by the subject matter -Ada Lovelace, who inspired computer programmers to name a programming language after her, was Byron's daughter, a maths fanatic who saw the future of computing in the era of Dickens, before computers were even born. Who wouldn't be? Here is a woman, before suffrage and equal rights, in a time when the idea of women being educated was seriously questioned as a dangerous thing due to their
...more
Abby
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Enjoyable, but uninspired biography of quite an inspiring woman. I found myself wanting more depth in some places (Lovelace's life around the time she was working on the Analytical Engine with Babbage and less depth in others (Lovelace's family's lives). The style of writing was inconsistent, juvenile and overall lacking. There was a huge dependence on large quotes from primary source material, such that some chapters felt more like any original writing was context/framing for an exchange of ...more
Timothy Covel
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dry in parts, fraught with opinion and speculations that are often distracting, and containing more information about Ada's father, mother, and Charles Babbage than about Ada herself. This may be due to a lack of actual source material to accurately detail the extent of Ada's work being available. I do not think this work supports its title that Ada Lovelace "launched the Digital Age", despite clearly being brilliant and a visionary of her time.

However, the book is full of interesting details
...more
Feisty Harriet
This could have been such a great book, excellent story, kind of floppy and overly fluffed writing tho. Meh.
Jazmin
Nov 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This was an interesting and in depth read on Ada Lovelace. I was interested more in her endeavors with Babbage but the book does a good job of setting up a lot of background and delving into her relationships that I was a little bit heartbroken by the end. The only fault was probably that it dragged near the middle and it took me longer to get through this parts but overall a most excellent read.
Catherine Siemann
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: victorians
This would be an excellent introduction for someone who knows relatively little about, say, Lord Byron, the role of women in 19th century Britain, or the Industrial Revolution. I'm not that person, so a lot was review for me, but the information on Babbage's engine and Ada's mathematics was worth the price of admission.
Karen
Ada's story is really interesting and deserves to be told,however this book doesn't do it justice. The writing is appalling,and whoever proof read this should be fired. I don't expect proof readers to be experts in the subject but I do expect them to be able to string a sentence together.
Denise
Clearly written and informative. Sometimes repetitive, not without good reason. At times it felt more like a Babbage book than Ada, however, understandable considering how his influence gave her the platform to shine.
John
Apr 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015
Probably the worst book I actually finished. Sheer determination got me through it. Reams of old letters and books quoted wholesale. Facts and guesses and not much life in the characters.
Maeve
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I am glad that Ada Lovelace's intellectual contributions have been unearthed. Her short life was easily overlooked.
Jessica
Apr 29, 2015 rated it did not like it
For a book about Ada Lovelace, there was sure a lot in this book that had very little to do with her, and it was very poorly written. I was extremely disappointed.
Sofia
Feb 09, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nice contents, but the writing can be too sentimental, which becomes a little annoying at times.
Lisalou
Really 2 1/2 stars. Interesting story but told rather poorly with a lack of focus on Ada. I learned more about Ada's mother and Babbage than I did about her.
Q. D.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: computer-science
"We may say most aptly, that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves."

"In considering any new subject, there is frequently a tendency, first to overrate what we find to be already interesting or remarkable; and, secondly, by a sort of natural reaction, to undervalue the true state of the case, when we do discover that our notions have surpassed those that were really tenable."

Ada Lovelace is out of almost everyone's league. For one,
...more
Alger
Sep 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
My main issue with this book is that it isn't actually about Ada's Algorithm. That would have been a book with an organizing theme. I like to think that a study about the origins and lasting influence of the watershed "Note G" outlining the steps of programming a proposed mechanical, cog-driven, analytical engine would have given this book purpose. What we have instead is neither fish nor fowl: this could be mistaken for a biography of Countess Ada Lovelace, but the book opens with the ...more
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Hi! My name is James Essinger and I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction.

In my fiction I have a particular interest in personal relationships, travel, history, information technology and chess.

In my non-fiction I have a particular interest in the history of computing, and in language.

I was born in Leicester in the English Midlands in 1957 and I attended Overdale Junior School in Leicester and
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“The aristocracy and the ordinary people were like different species. A commoner might rarely be elevated to nobility by acquiring great wealth or political influence, but the easiest way into the aristocracy – then as now – was through marriage. Most aristocrats married other ones, but occasionally a commoner might get lucky, just as sometimes happens today. Many” 0 likes
“Peel finally decided to interrupt the endless stream of complaints and grievances and call Babbage to order with a hard fact: ‘Mr Babbage, by your own admission you have rendered the Difference Engine useless by inventing a better machine.’ Babbage took the bait and glared at Peel. ‘But if I finish the Difference Engine it will do even more than I promised. It is true that it has been superseded by better machinery, but it is very far from being “useless.” 0 likes
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