The Bride of Science, by Benjamin Woolley

The Bride of Science (subtitled: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter) is a biography of Ada Lovelace, an early 19th-century woman renowned for her mathematical ability and her friendship with Charles Babbage, creator of a very early version of the computer.  She was, of course, even better known as the daughter of the infamous Lord Byron — although Ada never knew her father, because her mother left him shortly after she was born and allowed no contact between Ada and Byron for the few short years between then and his death.

Author Woolley structures his biography of Ada around the nineteenth-century tension between “Romance” and “Reason,” which he sees as being embodied in Ada’s parents and, to some degree, within two sides of Ada’s own personality. This overriding concept sometimes strains the fabric of the story, as Woolley seems to be trying too hard to bring out the Romance/Reason parallels.

Generally, this is a competent though not terrible exciting biography of an intriguing woman.  Like so many biographies of women in earlier centuries, the main emotion The Bride of
leaves the reader with is regret — regret for another woman’s exceptional talents wasted by the narrow-minded society patriarchal society in which she lived, which never gave her the education or opportunity to develop those talents to the fullest.


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