Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist 1st Edition
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About the Author
- Publisher : Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; 1st edition (July 15, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Hardcover : 128 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1851244883
- ISBN-13 : 978-1851244881
- Item Weight : 15.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 0.8 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #593,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Throughout the book, the authors indent quotes from the letter images as part of the text. This is useful, as the handwriting can be quite tricky to read, even though it is tidy, as one would expect of a well-brought up lady.
After the Preface, the book has a list of characters mentioned in the book, together with some useful hints about their role in life. Most people will have heard of some like Charles Dickens, Karl Marx or Florence Nightingale. Others will be familiar to mathematicians, like Cauchy, Cayley, De Morgan and Euler. Others are more obscure, like Woronzow Greig, Eldest son of Mary Somerville, for whom Somerville College in Oxford is named.
Chapter 1 sets the scene - one in which British women of the early 19th century - had to be tutored privately or attend scientific meetings to be schooled in mathematics. Chapter 2 describes how Ada had a broad education, discussing dragonflies as well as her beloved mathematics. With a governess, then her mother teaching her, Ada advanced quickly and the book discusses her equation solving in accessible language, so you don't have to have a mathematics degree to understand most of her reasoning.
The book looks at Ada's thought processes, reflected in her letters, about a range of subjects such as using mathematics for flight, engineering and algorithms. The book describes how Ada met leading mathematicians of the day, not least University College, London professor Augustus De Morgan.
We think of distance learning as a modern topic, but the book describes Ada's correspondence courses, together with the struggles she had to grasp new concepts and the joy she had at solving problems. Chapter 3 - on Early Influences - has an informative picture on the wooden models of the type that Ada owned to help her learn geometry.
What gave Ada the distinction of being called the first programmer, was her relationship with Charles Babbage, known for designing large calculating machines made of cogs and wheels - Difference Engines and the Analytical Engine. Ada shows how one could use differences to make calculations repeatedly - as programmers do in modern algorithms. It is in the realm of Ada's calculations that your head might begin to spin. Thankfully, the authors take the reader step-by-step through Ada's reasoning.
Another feature of the book is how Ada's work is relevant to today's computational problem solving. The authors repeatedly think of the implications of her thoughts and ideas for today's creative folk. In conclusion, the book summarizes Ada's many interests, her marriage and her early death at age 36.
There are several books on Ada's life, but this book is a reasonably quick read for the scientist or mathematician or programmer. For others who take time to go through the calculations, clearly laid out in the book, it will take a bit longer, but still be a worthwhile view of a revered lady.
Disclosure: I first met Ursula Martin when we studied together as undergraduates - she is a long time friend. My husband is also a trustee, and I have been a volunteer, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View California, which has an exhibit on Ada Lovelace that was originally in the Bodleian Library in Oxford that was co-curated by Ursula Martin. I apply the objectivity I would to any of my reviews on Amazon.