on July 22, 2013
This book is a pleasant reading, a romaticized narrative of the life of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, with many and interesting insight into British life and society in the late Georgian and early Victorian age. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell history and fiction apart. Neither a preface/introduction, nor closing notes help the reader to distinguish facts from fantasy. A short bibliography, listing just the most known biographies published on Babbage and Ada, makes no reference to other primary sources, e.g. unpublished manuscripts or correspondence; thus, it seems that most of the content comes from either the cited literature or has been `invented' by Warrick. Two flaws catched my eye:
Talking of Babbage's family, Warrick says (page 36) that "Their birth [of the two elder sons Benjamin and Charles] were followed by two stillborn sons."; and (p. 66) "... he knew how painfull had been the death of two stillborn sons, ..." The offspring of Charles Babbage and his wife Giorgiana Whitmore were: Benjamin Herschel (6 Aug. 1815 - 22 Oct. 1878); Charles Whitmore (22 Jan. 1817 - Jul.1827); Georgiana Whitmore (17 Jul. 1818 - 1834); Edward Stewart (15 Dec. 1819 - 26 Nov. 1821); Francis Moore (1 Jun. 1821 - 1822); Dugald Bromhead (13 Mar.1823 - 23 Aug. 1881); Henry Prevost (16 Sept. 1824 - 29 Jan. 1918); Alexander Forbes (1827 - 1827). Thus no trace of two `stillborn' (miscarriages ?) before the birth of Giorgiana are metioned by other biographers, but two sons (Edward and Francis), both born 'after' Giorgiana, lived less than two years. The last son, Alexander, not mentioned in Warrick's book, died newborn in 1827. [see also [...]
Dealing with the first travel of Babbage to the Continent (page 49), the author says: "First they [C. Babbage and J. Herschel] went to Paris for a week [...] They next went to Geneva [...] The trip continued on south through Chamonix to Turin where they met the Italian astronomer, Giovanni Plana". From the other cited references Babbage made two trips with Herschel, one in 1819, when they went non further than Paris, and another in 1821 when they reached Italy and visited several local scientists, but no meeting with Plana has been recorded. To be sure, Babbage met Plana in Turin in 1840-41, when he made his second grand-tour in Europe and also met Federico Luigi Menabrea; although Babbage and Plana corresponded regularly since 1835. By the way, the name of Menabrea is perseveringly misspelt `Menabrae' and other misprints appear here and there.
In conclusion, a good idea that deserved better editing.
on October 9, 2014
The description from the publisher does not mention the fact that this is a work of fiction, not an actual biography. Yes, it includes a great deal of biographical information, but its purpose is not so much to educate as to entertain. Chapter Two delves into the emotional ups and downs of Ada Lovelace's governess; that's when I realized that this was a novel, not a biography.
One of the reader reviews makes it clear that this is a work of fiction. I should have paid closer attention to the user reviews; I was misled by the publisher's blurb about the book.
I would have no objections to this book if it were clearly labeled as a novel.