Book Recs for Ada Lovelace and Co.

Posted by Danielle Mohlman

It’s Ada Lovelace Day, y’all! Today we’re celebrating The Honorable Augusta Ada King-Noel (nee Byron), Countess of Lovelace and the contributions this renegade made to mathematics and technology. To celebrate this numerical genius, we came up some book recommendations for Ada and the company she kept. Want to learn more about Ada and her accomplishments? Pick up a copy of Sam Maggs’ Wonder Women for a sassy take on the queen of numbers.


Ada Lovelace

Book Rec: Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

By the time she was eighteen, Ada had published a number of papers on neurological thought patterns and how music and math are dynamically related. Soon afterward, she teamed up with mathematician and general purpose computer inventor Charles Babbage to create a flawless algorithm for his machine, making Ada the first computer programmer. Because Ada’s notes and calculations for the Analytical Engine ended up influencing Alan Turing’s own work, we’re certain that she’d be curious to learn more about him. We’re recommending Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges for a deep dive into Turing’s life and work.


Lord Byron

Book Rec: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of poet and general eccentric Lord Byron. The Right Honorable George Gordon Byron (later Noel) and Anne Isabella Millbanke divorced early in Ada’s life, so Ada never really met her father. We suspect between writing Romantic epics like Don Juan and attempting to take over Greece, there’s little time for reading. But we recommend Claudia Rankine’s Citizen all the same. Because we believe Citizen should be required reading for poets and computer programmers alike.


Anne Isabella Millbanke

Book Rec: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Ada’s mother Anne was a mathematician in her own right. Praised by Lord Byron as the Princess of Parallelograms before their tumultuous relationship ended once and for all, Anne made it her duty to raise Ada around science and math, refusing to let her daughter anywhere near poetry or the arts. We think Anne would really enjoy All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Who doesn’t want to read a novel that features an eight-year-old child with a natural gift for radio circuitry? Sounds like a kid who knows how to keep his priorities straight.


Charles Babbage

Book Rec: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Mathematician Charles Babbage had already invented the a computer called the Difference Engine by the time he met Ada. This computer was essentially a giant calculator and was relegated to computing functions based in addition. Ada and Charles started working together in 1833 on his new and improved Analytical Engine – a machine that promised to include subtraction, multiplication, and division in this giant calculator mix. Ada took extensive notes on the machine and created that famous algorithm which, had the Analytical Engine ever come to fruition, would have taught the machine how to calculate the Bernoulli numbers. Talk about numerical rock star status.  We think Charles Babbage would be interested in reading about a different set of mathematical all stars. The kind that put astronauts into outer space. Yes, that’s right. We’re talking about the women of Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures. Happy reading, Charles.