The story of our digital age is sadly lacking in its inclusion of prominent women. One notable exception is Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace. The daughter of the iconic poet Lord Byron, Ada played a critical role in shaping public perception of one of the first computing devices: Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine. In her richly detailed Enchantress of Numbers, Jennifer Chiaverini presents a vivid portrait of Ada’s too-short life while illuminating the significance of her professional accomplishments.
Narrated in her keenly intelligent voice, Ada’s story is one of conflict between the two sides of her genetic and cultural inheritance: the fiery, artistic temperament of her father, who chafed against polite society’s constraints; and her mother’s desire for order and control, rooted in the conventions of England’s 19th-century nobility. Ada’s true gift is her ability to marry the sensibility of a poet to the keen mind of a scientist.
Enchantress of Numbers expertly balances scenes in royal salons and English country houses with Ada’s reflections on the mathematical principles that helped her push the potential of Babbage’s invention beyond expectations. Chiaverini’s latest will appeal to readers who enjoy 19th-century historical fiction and want a glimpse into the dawn of a technological revolution.