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The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason and Byron's Daughter [Paperback]

Benjamin Woolley
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Amazon Review

Ada Lovelace, the result of Lord Byron's short- lived marriage to Annabella Milbanke, is an extraordinary figure in 19th-century society. Not only was she the daughter of a celebrity, but she was the first computer programmer the world has known.

From the moment she was born, in 1815, Ada was a controversial figure. Her mother, a woman known for her piety and intellect, had fled the marital home taking her three-week-old baby with her. In this first comprehensive biography of Lovelace, Benjamin Woolley contends that the child embodied a chasm between Romanticism as represented by her father, and Reason as represented by his wife. He examines how, as an adult, she struggled to reconcile these opposites by creating a "poetical science". But first he deals with her childhood. We learn of Annabella's ferocious educational regime, and a young girl who, understandably, took refuge in the imagination.

Woolley's achievement is in making accessible the scientific theories that absorbed Lovelace and that led to her breakthrough in computer science. His approach to her work is grounded in her domestic setting which he portrays as oppressive, and as hastening her early death in 1852 from cervical cancer. The Bride of Science is a powerful piece of work, entirely appropriate for a revolutionary woman. --Lilian Pizzichini --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A splendid and enthralling portrait"-The Sunday Times (London); "It's a thriller"-New Scientist; "Woolley...skillfully conveys the excitement and contradictions of the era, and builds maximum suspense into the book's episodic structure - an approach that serves well in this popular account of a complex life and time..." - Publishers Weekly; "Although the colorful cast of luminaries and rogues sometimes diverts us from Ada's tragic story, this biography provides an intriguing glimpse into the beginnings of computer science and a reminder that character is destiny." - The Wall Street Journal

From the Back Cover

Known in her day as the "Enchantress of Numbers," Ada Lovelace was one of the most fascinating women of the 19th century. She rubbed elbows with many of the brightest scientific lights of her day, including the brilliant experimentalists Michael Faraday and Andrew Crosse­­arguably the model for Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein. She was the protégé of the "Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science," Mary Sommerville. And, with mathematician Charles Babbage, inventor of the Analytical Engine­­the mechanical "thinking machine" that anticipated the modern computer by more than a century­­she developed a set of instructions for mechanically calculating Bernoulli numbers, in effect, creating the first computer program. In recognition of her accomplishment, the US Department of Defense, in 1980, named its standard programming language, "Ada," thus, nearly one hundred and thirty years after her death, granting her the immortality she so craved.

Yet, as noted British journalist Benjamin Woolley reveals in this captivating, finely-nuanced portrait of that remarkable woman, Ada was far from being the cool and dispassionate exemplar of the modern scientific spirit. Born in 1815, the product of one of the most sensational (and disastrous) marriages of the 19th century­­that between the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" poet, Lord Byron and the celebrated intellectual reformist Annabella Milbanke­­Ada, perhaps more than any other figure of the early Victorian period, came to embody the widening rift between the worlds of Romanticism, typified by her brilliant, sybaritic father, and of reason and technology represented by her severe mother. In The Bride of Science, Woolley vividly details how, throughout her brief life, Ada struggled to reconcile those opposites, sometimes with disastrous results. He relates how, in her efforts to appease her "wayward" passions and to satisfy an equally powerful desire to leave her stamp upon the face of science, she openly experimented with the social and sexual conventions of her day, dabbled in the "dangerous" new ideas of mesmerism, phrenology, and materialism, and, ultimately, formulated the concept of a "poetical science" with which she hoped to bridge the gap between imagination and reason.

The Bride of Science is both the story of a life lived passionately and an intriguing rumination on the death of Romanticism and the birth of the Machine Age, offering profound insights into the seemingly irreconcilable gulf between art and science that persists to this day.

"A splendid and enthralling portrait."
­­The Sunday Times (London)

"It's a thriller."
­­New Scientist

"Her life spanned the era that began with the Battle of Waterloo and ended with the Great Exhibition­­a period of barely forty years that saw the world transformed. This was the age when social, intellectual and technological developments opened up deep fissured in culture, when romance began to split away from reason, instinct from intellect, art from science. Ada came to embody these new polarities. She struggled to reconcile them, and they tore her apart."
­­The Bride of Science

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Benjamin Woolley is a writer and broadcaster. He has contributed to a range of BBC programs, including an edition of a Horizon on 'artificial life,' and a Bookmark on Aldous Huxley. He is a freelance contributor to a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. Hometown: London, UK
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