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The Calculating Passion of Ada Byron

By (author) Joan Baum
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Shoe String Press Inc.,U.S., North Haven, United States
Published: 1st Jan 1986
Dimensions: w 140mm h 220mm d 20mm
Weight: 370g
ISBN-10: 0208021191
ISBN-13: 9780208021199
Barcode No: 9780208021199

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Kirkus US
A first-rate opus that adds as much to the history of computing as it does to the intellectual climate of England during the early 19th century. Charles Babbage, the Cambridge mathematician who built a "Difference Engine" capable of generating accurate mathematical tables and other arithmetica, dreamed of building an "Analytical Engine." He met Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, when she was 17, and she came to believe in his dream. By the time she was 27, she had written seven "notes" annotating a description of the hypothetical analytical engine and providing concrete examples (mathematical) and imagined uses (the composition of music) of how the engine could be instructed to store and act on information, generating printed output. Ada herself has remained enigmatic: Was she a brilliant mathematician? Or an eccentric intelligence given to dreams of glory and fits of doubt? To add to the mystery there was a history of vague digestive disorders, asthma, and finally a uterine cancer that led to her death in 1852 at 36. Baum does a masterful job of putting Ada into perspective as a rich and attractive woman with an indulgent husband, a domineering mother, and a deep longing for the father she never knew. She was essentially a loner, admired but not always liked; given to fantasies and frustrations, Byronic posturings and a passion of mind that sought to unite mathematics, music and poetry to the greater glory of God. And with it all came a pain-wracked body. Think what Thomas Mann or Freud would have done with such material! As it is, we can thank Baum for enlightenment about a figure and a period that will interest any and all with a curiosity about that fine madness we have come to associate with certain English at certain times and places. . . (Kirkus Reviews)