Book Review: Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger


About This Book

Title: Ada’s Algorithm: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Ada Lovelace Launched the Digital Age

Author: James Essinger

Source: A gift

Publication Date: October 14th, 2014

Pages: 272

Blurb: Over 150 years after her death, a widely-used scientific computer program was named “Ada,” after Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of the eighteenth century’s version of a rock star, Lord Byron. Why?

Because, after computer pioneers such as Alan Turing began to rediscover her, it slowly became apparent that she had been a key but overlooked figure in the invention of the computer.

In Ada Lovelace, James Essinger makes the case that the computer age could have started two centuries ago if Lovelace’s contemporaries had recognized her research and fully grasped its implications.

It’s a remarkable tale, starting with the outrageous behavior of her father, which made Ada instantly famous upon birth. Ada would go on to overcome numerous obstacles to obtain a level of education typically forbidden to women of her day. She would eventually join forces with Charles Babbage, generally credited with inventing the computer, although as Essinger makes clear, Babbage couldn’t have done it without Lovelace. Indeed, Lovelace wrote what is today considered the world’s first computer program—despite opposition that the principles of science were “beyond the strength of a woman’s physical power of application.”

Based on ten years of research and filled with fascinating characters and observations of the period, not to mention numerous illustrations, Essinger tells Ada’s fascinating story in unprecedented detail to absorbing and inspiring effect.

My Review

I was very excited to read this biography of Ada Lovelace because she was the first person to write a computer program and she was a girl. In fact, most of the earlier programmers were girls. Now, that’s changed which is sad. More girls should get interested in STEM. That’s why I was so excited to read this book because it’s about such an inspiring lady. While I think the actual content about Ada in this book was very interesting to read and also very inspiring, there were other areas in which the book fell short.

The actual content about Ada that this book talked about was amazing and really opened my mind to exactly what Ada was trying to accomplish, as well as an easy-to-understand explanation of the technical logic behind her accomplishments. I also liked that the author continually stressed the importance of women in STEM in this book. The author acknowledged people who think that Ada didn’t actually contribute most to her accomplishments, but at the same time, he also tore down these accusations and showed that Ada really did contribute to early computer science.

What I didn’t like about this book, however, was that not enough of it focused on Ada. Since this was a book about Ada, it should have focused primarily on Ada’s life and accomplishments. Of course to understand this one also needs to understand the lives of the people that influenced her, but the book should not have focused so much on these people. Instead, it should have focused on Ada and used the other people in her life to support the writing about her. Unfortunately, a lot of the book took the focus off of Ada. For example, the first few chapters went on and on incessantly about her family, and much of the book was also about Charles Babbage.

Overall, this was an informative book, but I would liked to have read more about Ada and less about the other people in her life.

My Rating




8 thoughts on “Book Review: Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger

  1. I knew she was the first programmer, and played an important in role the early history of computer science, but have lacked any biographical book about her. I will have to look for this one!


  2. I’ve never heard of this one before–though it sounds really intriguing! I see why this one didn’t leave as large of an impact as it could have, though.

    Loved the review, hun <33


  3. Wow, she was such a pioneer before her time! I love hearing about strong, creative women breaking the stereotype. She sounds amazing, it’s a Shane that she wasn’t entirely the main focal point though. Really glad you enjoyed it for the most part. Great review! ❤


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