Enchantress of Numbers (Ada Lovelace)
by Jennifer Chiaverini
Review by Gayle Surrette
Dutton Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: 9781101985205
Date: 05 December 2017
I first learned about Ada Lovelace when I was taking computer science classes. I even took a class where we programmed in Ada. But, I never really learned anything about Ada Lovelace the person; just about her connection with Charles Babbage, inventor of the Difference and Analytical Engines, and the birth of computers. The publicity announcement for Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini attracted my attention and I felt this was a chance to learn more about the woman who has been considered to be the first to write a computer program. The story of her life and work was as interesting and fascinating as I hoped it would be.
Empress of Numbers is a fictionalized biography of Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, and begins before her birth with the courtship of her parents, Lord Byron (yes, the poet) and Isabella Milbanke. The style is one that gives the impression that an older Ada is writing what she knows about her past, either from hearsay or her own experiences. It has the distinct feel of an autobiography as it sticks quite closely to what she has seen, done, heard, or been told.
While I was somewhat familiar with her work with Charles Babbage and his Difference and Analytical Engines, I knew very little about Ada's actual life. Beginning the story with her parent's courtship, marriage, and then Ada's birth sets the stage and background for her childhood and the rest of her life. It didn't take long find myself enthralled by the story and then I found it difficult to put down as her life unfolded before my eyes.
Her mother felt that to encourage imagination in Ada was dangerous, so she did all she could to keep her focused on science, logic, and mathematics. Luckily, Ada found that she enjoyed her studies but the choice of nurses, governesses, and companions was not always to her liking.
I really don't want to say more about her life as you should discover it as I did by reading the book. There's a list of the research materials used to pull together the facts of the story, so you could follow up if interested. I learned about her joys, sorrows, and regrets. She was indeed an Enchantress of Numbers.