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Ada's Algorithm: How Lord Byron's Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age through the Poetry of Numbers [Kindle Edition]

James Essinger
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the dangerous romantic poet whose name became a byword for scandal. Over the past decades, she herself has become a surprising underground star for digital pioneers all over the world, starting with Alan Turing. Embraced by programmers and women in technology, Ada even has her own day that is commemorated every year on Google’s search engine. Ada’s Algorithm, tells the exceptional story of Ada Lovelace’s life and achievement, and traces how her contemporaries failed to recognise the extraordinary break-through she had made. If they had, the computer age could have started almost two centuries ago. In her private life, Ada suffered many battles, not least with the common conception at the time that science was ‘beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application,’ but also her over-bearing mother, her father’s infamy, nervousness, and addiction to gambling. The fact that her fame today continues to rise despite such hurdles is a tribute to her singular determination and inspiring personality. Based on 10 years of research and filled with a host of fascinating characters - including Charles Dickens and Walter Scott - Lovelace’s own writing, as well as illustrations, her short but poignant story is told here in unprecedented, spell-binding detail.

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'Anyone who thinks [Lovelace's] famous contribution to computer science is overrated, should read James Essinger's new biography... This concise and readable account gives Lovelace's work the respect it deserves.' --Christine Evans-Pughe, Engineering and Technology Magazine

'Appealing.' --Andrew Robinson, BBC Focus Magazine

'Notable.' --Scotsman

About the Author

James Essinger previously wrote Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age (OUP 2004), which was chosen as one of the top 5 popular science books of the year by the Economist. While doing research for this book, he became fascinated by Ada Lovelace. He was educated at Lincoln College (University of Oxford) and lives in Canterbury.

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More About the Author

Hi everyone! Welcome to my author page on amazon!

My name is James Essinger and I write novels, non-fiction books, magazine articles and also I do some business writing. I also write novels and non-fiction books as a ghost-writer. In addition to this I have written a screenplay about Ada Lovelace called 'Ada's Thinking-Machine', and I am also involved with another writer and a composer in writing a musical about Ada.

I was born in the English Midlands city of Leicester in 1957 and went to Overdale Junior School, Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys and then Lincoln College, Oxford, where I studied English Language and Literature. I have an MA degree from Oxford University.

My surname is German. My late father Ted, who was born in 1922 and died in 2005, was born in Germany in a German Jewish family and came to the UK in July 1939, just six weeks before WW2 broke out. My grandfather Julius (my second Christian name is Julius) was killed in Auschwitz. My grandmother Rega and my uncle Uli also died during WW2. I am deeply sympathetic to the Jewish faith but my own religious position is essentially agnostic. I am a firm believer in the Law of Attraction.

I speak Finnish, French and German as well as English. From 1980 to 1983 I taught English in Finland in three nine-month contracts. I have been a freelance writer and public relations consultant since 1988.

I love writing, reading, chess, great music, cooking, socialising and also gardening though I don't have much time for that.

Writers I love include Shakespeare, Dickens, Conrad and George Orwell. My favourite Shakespeare play is 'As You Like It', my favourite Dickens works are 'A Christmas Carol' and 'Our Mutual Friend', and my favourite Conrad books are 'Heart of Darkness', 'Lord Jim' and 'Nostromo'.

Other books that have made a massive impact on me include DH Lawrence's 'Women in Love', William Styron's 'Sophie's Choice', Anthony Burgess's 'Earthly Powers', William Sutcliffe's 'Are You Experienced?' and Philip Kerr's 'A Philosophical Investigation'.

Movies I especially like include: 'Casablanca', 'Some Like It Hot', Mephisto', 'The Terminator', 'Les Visiteurs', 'Gladiator', 'Sideways' and the marvellous horror film 'Mama'. If I want a good laugh I like watching the movie 'Fat Slags' written by my friend William Osborne.

Poets whose work I love include John Keats, Lord Byron, Shelley, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin and my friend Valerie Cassar, whose recent collection 'Silence of Your Breath' is superb.

I am on Facebook and Twitter.

I am also the principal of Canterbury Literary Agency, which I founded in 2011.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a genius but also fascinating woman 16 Nov. 2013
Once upon a time, when I was a programmer, someone I worked with told me about Ada Lovelace. Since then I have read a lot about her, mostly in fragments here and there, but until now I haven't found a book that captured the whole story, both good and bad.
This book does it all. It is fabulously well researched and the story very well told.
James Essinger manages to capture Ada's spirit as well as her genius and incorporate everything in a beautifully produced book. This is not only an excellent biography about a wonderful woman but also the best biography I read in the past few years.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for smart people 19 Nov. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I wasn't sure whether this book was aimed at men, too. But I enjoyed it. There is something very uplifting about this book in that intelligence is irrepressible. Even if you throw all the garbage of the nineteenth century at it, you will still find a brilliant mind that does something breath-taking. Who knew that the daughter of Byron was as a famed as her own father. Him we don't read anymore, I fear, but with her ideas we live every day: more and more...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read, what a story! 19 Nov. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
We like to think geeks and artists live in separate universes. This book shows that it can be very different, and is just good history, written without a single formula in sight. Ada Lovelace was ferociously intelligent and the daughter of Lord Byron, the scandalous poet. It is just amazing to think that she lived in the early nineteenth century, in a time that couldn't be more different, yet that she was the only one to see that our daily lives would one day be woven together with science gadgets (she called it `poetical science'). Her life ended in such a sad way. Girl power, though!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing the past to Life! 27 Dec. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mr. Essinger has taken on the difficult task of producing an interesting, very readable book from the unlikely subjects of a fiendishly complicated calculating machine, its inventor the 19th century mathematician Charles Babbage, and a largely unknown heroine Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron.....and he has succeeded admirably. Few of us today have ever heard of Charles Babbage, let alone Ada Lovelace, a brilliant mathematician in her own right who became Babbages's friend, confidante and collaborator. She, alone, was able to see the enormous future potential of his calculating machine, far beyond mathematics. Sadly, the machine was never built during their lifetimes due to the enormous expense involved and Babbage's poor public relations skills in his approaches to Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister of the day, but there is no doubt that their combined genius laid the groundwork for modern-day computing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good to know ! 25 Nov. 2013
By tcmum
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
would recommend to anyone in the computer business who likes to understand the history, having recently read the secrets of bletchly park and finding this goes back even further to babbage, Ada was a programming language as far as I was concerned, no idea about why it was named Ada.....
having recently discovered Adults of nearly 40 who didn't know a tardis was based on a police box (or even what and why they existed) I realise technology is moving so fast that less than a generation doesn't keep up with the recent past (through no fault of their own).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very inspirational story 24 Nov. 2013
By Barbara
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I knew very little about Ada Lovelace before picking up this very interesting and readable book. The story of her unconventional upbringing and her refusal to be denied education, along with her ability to fuse science, maths and creativity was very uplifting and inspirational to read.
This book was easy to read and gave a real flavour of the lives and times of Ada, her father - Lord Byron, and her friend Charles Babbage.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written 6 Feb. 2014
If it was not for this book I would probably not know about Ada Lovelace and that the first computer language was named after her. The book is well researched but the style of writing is appalling at places. When the author refers to one particular person he keeps repeating her/his name in practically every sentence as if there was no equivalent in the English language. I found it so amateurish and annoying that I had to skip many paragraphs. There are also quite a few printing mistakes. It looks like the publisher did not bother about proof-reading.

Having gone through ¾ of the book and learnt nothing about Ada’s actual contribution to mathematics and computing I gave up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable biography 27 Aug. 2014
By Sooh
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am not really a fan of biographies, but read this because of the subject matter. I found it much more readable than most biographies and enjoyed the author's musings on how to interpret phrases in correspondence. My main gripe is lack of proof reading by the publishers, as I find these errors of misspelling and repeated words distracting. Also had a few wry smiles as the author mentioned spelling mistakes by Babbage in his spelling Jacard rather than Jacquard - and then the publishers allowed Ordinance Survey instead of Ordnance Survey. So, a readable book by the author, spoilt by the publishers lack of good proof readers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Despite it's title the book lacks insight to Ada Lovelace's technical...
I was disappointed with this book. The title "Ada's Algorithm" sounds technical but there is nothing technical in this book. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Alan UK
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very interesting person and a good book
Published 5 months ago by Carol
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and brilliantly researched
I came across this book whilst looking around the Manchester branch of Waterstones and I am very glad I did. Read more
Published 7 months ago by mark
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, particularly good if like me you didn't ...
A great read, particularly good if like me you didn't know much about Lord Byron or Charles Babbage let alone Ada Lovelace before reading it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Chris Howell
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
People often say that they were born in the wrong time, Decades or even centurys too late usually. Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage were born a century too soon without doubt. Read more
Published 15 months ago by doublerainbow
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting woman, shame about the style
I'm afraid I had to give up about halfway through, which I rarely do.
It was an interesting subject, and I had wanted to learn more about Ada Lovelace, but found the book... Read more
Published 16 months ago by MRS P BRADNUM
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much maths!
Ada Lovelace may well have been a great mathematician but you will not find much evidence for it in this book. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Forlornehope
5.0 out of 5 stars The reviews are right
I had a quick look at the reviews before I bought this book and I agree that this is an excellent book - an easy to read and wide-ranging biography of a remarkable woman. Read more
Published 18 months ago by JohnH
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever woman
A well written book which was easy to follow. It is good to access works you would not normally look for
Published 19 months ago by Kindle Customer EAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but somewhat dense
Ada Lovelace was an amazing woman and greatly undervalued both in her lifetime and today. She deserves much better recognition for her contribution to computing. Read more
Published 20 months ago by MRS
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