I think that everyone has at least one historical figure that they are fascinated by. One such character for me is Anne Boleyn. I don’t think I could give you a reason why but there is something about her that just draws me in. I’ve lost count of the number of books, documentaries and films about her and her life that I have seen and read over the years. This blog post however is not about her.
This blog post is about another woman from British history who has had me intrigued for the longest time. I didn’t learn about her in school however and somehow, she seemed to be illusive from many of the museums I visited as a child. It’s not that she isn’t well known, it’s more like when you and a friend just seem to keep missing each other. Over the course of the summer, I started to find myself missing my uni studies so I decided to get myself some background knowledge books. Whilst browsing, I suddenly saw it, a biography of the person that I had been wanting to learn about for quite some time now. So I bought it, I read it and I loved it.
This week, I’m writing about: Ada Lovelace – Bride of Science.
Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the infamous Romantic poet, Lord Byron. Lord Byron and his wife Annabella (although other sources call her Anne Isabella). were married for barely a year and their divorce in 1816 was something of a celebrity sensation. Fearing that Ada would inherit her fathers attitudes and behaviours, Annabella kept a very firm hand on her daughter and focused her education on maths and science. This didn’t really work and while Ada would go down in history as the first computer programmer (a century before computers were invented) she did throw herself into her Byronic legacy of mad passions, gambling and letting her imagination run wild.
Benjamin Woolley’s retelling of Ada’s story is amusing and heart breaking at the same time. For much of the time, you can detect a slightly sarcastic tone, particularly when referring to Annabella and her attitude towards, practically everything to be honest. Ada herself seems to have been a very witty woman and this is brought across really well. However, to see someone crave affection during childhood and independence during adulthood and fail to obtain either it truly sad.
The book is very well detailed right from when Byron and Annabella first met and right up until after Ada’s death. Everyone person, thought or trend that could have influenced her is mentioned and discussed. This had a slightly strange affect for me where it felt like I really understood Ada’s mind set and yet I could go for pages without her actually being mentioned. This also occurred right at the beginning of the book when the whole of the first chapter, if not a lot of the second and the third is actually about how her parents met, their marriage and subsequent separation. Obviously these events are important ( and interesting and amusing in themselves) and helped shape Ada into the person that she became and yet, it was rather frustrating. It felt at times like I was reading about everyone except the person that the biography was supposed to be about.
All in all, I enjoyed Bride of Science and would recommend it to anyone who was interested in Ada Lovelace or mathematics and computing. I also found it a good first biography to read as for parts it read more like a normal story. I would suggest however, that if you aren’t that interested in poetry, that you skip the various quotes from Byron’s published work that are placed throughout. I give Bride of Science 4/5 Pi’s.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂