Privacy & Individual Rights
Commerce, Security, & the Law
Net Culture, Art, & Literature
International Affairs & National Security
Ethics, Rhetoric, & Metaphysics
Science Fiction Other Resources
Other Book Review Sites
|In his book The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and
Byron's Daughter, Benjamin Woolley undertakes the enormous task of
describing the seismic clash between arts and sciences that took place as
the 18th century became the 19th century. This somewhat intangible clash
became very tangible in Seaham, England, in the year 1815. It was then that
perhaps the best representative of the romantic period of the late 18th
century, Lord Byron married Annabella Milbanke, a woman obsessed with the
scientific beginnings of the 19th century. This union, which seemed doomed
from its inception, did indeed fail miserably, but not before it produced a
wondrous child named Ada. She would spend her entire lifetime struggling
both personally and professionally to find the balance between those two
seemingly mutually exclusive things.
As a child, estranged from her famous father from birth, Ada was the victim of her mother's obsessive quest to purge her of all things Byron, most especially imagination. The vehicle by which Lady Byron attempted this was the hiring of private tutors to keep Ada's mind wholly focused on studies with special emphasis on math and science. This was accomplished while Lady Byron herself was absent, traveling around England, indulging in the new scientific advances of the era. Through her adolescent and adult life, Ada continued to seek to her control her "Byronistic" imagination by immersing herself in scientific and mathematical endeavors.
Although Ada never really found the balance between art and science in her personal life, she very nearly found it professionally. When at the personal request of Charles Babbage, she provided what was then and is now the only detailed description of Babbage's Analytical Engine, now widely accepted to be the first computer.
In his book, Woolley provides a detailed chronological journey through Ada's life, from childhood to death. He carefully describes Ada's influences, tendencies, and internal struggles. Woolley not only narrates what Ada did, but provides cohesive and thorough explanations of why she did those things. In explaining Ada's motivations and influences, Woolley biographies not only the life of Miss Byron but also the life and times of the 19th century and all who influenced it. Supporting "characters" in this book and Ada's life include future icons such as Charles Babbage whose first mechanical counting machine fascinated a young Ada and who later offered her the opportunity to bridge her gap between arts and science. In addition, many other early nineteenth century figures such as Michael Faraday, noted scientist in electro-magnetism, and Franz Mesmer of transconsciousness fame (think mesmerize) were pioneering figures of the time known by Ada.
At times, Woolley almost "loses" Ada among the many people and discoveries of her time. But, he always finds a way to make every person or idea relevant to the life of Ada Byron Lovelace. This book is a comprehensive and entertaining look at a most remarkable woman living in a most remarkable era.
John Zukowski, provides strategic Java consulting with JZ Ventures, Inc. through objective commentary on Java-related technologies, mentoring, training, curriculum development, technical editing, and software architecture and development. He received a B.S. in computer science and mathematics from Northeastern University and an M.S. in computer science from Johns Hopkins University.