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The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron's Daughter Paperback – February 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 063-9785334781 ISBN-10: 0071388605 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies; 1st edition (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071388605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071388603
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

First published in the United Kingdom in 1999, this is an entertaining biography of Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace, daughter of the renowned poet Lord Byron. Separated from Lord Byron shortly after Ada's birth, Lady Bryon raised her daughter in a strange and thoroughly controlled manner, limiting her access to both people and intellectual pursuits in order to keep Ada from developing any of the shortcomings she might have inherited from her father. As a result, Ada, who suffered from a variety of legitimate health problems, also developed serious psychological problems. As directed by her mother, Ada's educational focus was on science, and her relationship with Charles Babbage and the work she did in explaining and interpreting his Analytical Engine and Difference Machine, a precursor of the computer, were the culmination of her mathematical and technical studies. A fine study of Ada, this book is as much about her mother, Annabella, a woman who would not be crossed and who dominated her daughter's life right up to Ada's death at age 37. There is much controversy associated with Ada's life, and Woolley (Virtual Worlds) deals with it openly and philosophically. Some of his interpretations will surely be questioned, but for a biography filled with "sex, drugs, and mathematics" this is to be expected. Readers who enjoyed Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter will find this interesting.

Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, CA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Caterpillar Girl on April 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Romance and Byron certainly reign supreme in this book. Science, however, is lacking. A very interesting account of Byron and his brief marriage fills the first quarter of the book. His daughter, Ada, is the subject of the other three-quarters. The book uses Ada as a biographical example of the ever-more-intense clash between Reason (science, industry, etc) and Romance (poetry, religion, arts, etc). Ada seems to be unable to cope with this conflict within herself and the author details several periods of mental illness. Though the biography of Ada Lovelace is intriguing, the main focus is on the society in which she lived. A fascinating history lesson, and an eye-opening look into a hitherto neglected woman. That said, there are quiet a few mispellings (not unusual for a first edition). If you are interested in the period, Byron, or love biographies - this is a good choice. If your bent runs to the specific scientific contributions or more widely to a reflection on the conflict between Romance and Reason, you might try another work such as the Calculating Passion of Ada Byron or Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers (though neither of those includes the actual program she wrote) and Victorian Minds/a Study of Intellectuals in Crisis and Ideologies in Transition or In Pursuit of a Scientific Culture : Science, Art, and Society in the Victorian Age.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a historian of science and technology, and also a person very interested in computer science and fascinated by poetry as well, this book looked like a full 5 stars at first. Like some of the other reviewers, I felt swamped by the details of Ada's emotional life; yet, there are flashes of brilliance where the author makes a clear connection between her social position, her interior life as we can best judge it, and her pursuits. I wonder if there would have been a better way to organize the book; as it stands now, the book is almost purely narrative (with some asides and flashbacks), and appears to be aimed at the popular reader with a seasoning of technical information to goad the more serious critic into reading on. On the positive side, I was pleased to read a clarification of Ada's role in the Babbage Difference Engine's precocious presentation. And at times, the story was fascinating. Other times, it was just plain soggy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Snap Dragon on November 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
More than just a biography of Ada Lovelace Byron, this is a narrative of the social setting of early 19th century England. In the span of under 4 decades of Ada's life, Charles Babbage had demonstrated his Difference Engine with a working model, created the design for his Analytical Engine, many scientists were performing experiments related to electricity and magnetism, and some were dabbling in their relationship to the human mind, the great railway system emerged with the steam powered engine making distances shorter and travel less of a hardship. The debates surrounding progress of science versus keeping the tranquility of nature undisturbed are well represented in this narrative.

The story covers a lot of the scandals of incest associated with Byron and his separation from his wife - this separation dominated Ada's life and had far-reaching effects on her children as well. Ada's mother Annabella - Lady Byron comes across as a domineering, influential, cruel and manipulative woman.

Speculation, reconstruction, historical evidence all play their parts in this most fascinating story of the "Enchantress of Numbers" as Ada came to be known. This well written biography talks about Ada's early interest in flying and other "impossible" projects, absorption with mesmerism, phrenology, and above all, her quest for tying the cold mathematical world (of her mother) to the hot, passionate, poetic world of her father. Due to the unique legacy of her parents, Ada sees her purpose in life as one of somehow reconciling the two disparate worlds.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By euge@gmx.net on April 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Who better than Ada Byron can represent the turn from Romanticism to Victorian age in England? Ada, the heiress of the great poet Lord Byron has not only lived in such transitory epoch, but Passion and Science were running in her very own blood. She was brought up by her mother, Lady Byron, and initiated by her to mathematical and rational studies, everything that would keep Ada as far as possible from the tenebrous, irrational, dangerous and very passionate style of life of her father. This life style is what had led to the separation after only one year of merriage, between Lord and Lady Byron accompained by scandals grief and resentment. Lady Byron's reaction to it was to try to repress Ada's paternal romantic vein with science. This will bring Ada to be in contact with the best scientists of the moment and even to be remembered as the first computer programmer, but won't preclude her from being a real Byron...
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Root on June 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bailed out of this about a third of the way through, having gotten extremely frustrated waiting for the author to discuss Ada Lovelace. She never was as vividly portrayed as her parents; I have learned more about her from snippets in books about Victorian intellectual life. Even when she is on stage, it is as the puppet of her domineering mother - the incidents are at least as much about Lady Byron as about Ada. I suggest that my review title would be a more accurate description of the contents. Or perhaps, the Martyrdom of Lord Byron at the Hands of His Demented Wife.

It appears that the author's real interest is Lord Byron, who appears in what is supposedly a biography of his daughter more than can be justified, since he had virtually no involvement in her life after the shipwreck of his marriage. I am somewhat skeptical about how good a father Byron would have been in any case - writing touching lines about the loss of one's child is a far cry from the actual inconveniences of being a parent. This really isn't the point. Byron must have haunted Ada's life: he was famous, and Woolley would have it that cleansing his daughter of any similarities was the obsession of Lady Byron's life. But this wasn't the flesh-and-blood Byron, but society's and Lady Byron's view of him. Woolley rambles on about his doings that were probably irrelevant to Ada. Meanwhile, she is a dimly glimpsed cipher.

Despite the one star, this might be an interesting book for someone who wants to read about Byron and his marriage, particularly a reader who isn't expecting something else.

It's a pity that the Byrons' marriage was such a disaster, but really, I picked this up to learn about Ada Lovelace, not how vicious unhappy marriages can get. For that purpose, an article would have sufficed.
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