Ada's Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World's First Computer Programmer

by Fiona Robinson

Hardcover, 2016



Local notes

921 LOV




Abrams Books for Young Readers (2016), 40 pages


Biography & Autobiography. History. Juvenile Nonfiction. Science. HTML: Ada Lovelace (1815�1852) was the daughter of Lord Byron, a poet, and Anna Isabella Milbanke, a mathematician. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother insisted on a logic-focused education, rejecting Byron's "mad" love of poetry. But Ada remained fascinated with her father and considered mathematics "poetical science." Via her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, she became involved in "programming" his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the computer, thus becoming the world's first computer programmer. This picture book biography of Ada Lovelace is a compelling portrait of a woman who saw the potential for numbers to make art..


Original language


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Physical description

40 p.; 11 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member pataustin
Given the fact that relatively few women work in science, math, and engineering, Ada’s Ideas shines a light on Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) a woman well ahead of her time. Computer-language endpapers create a mathematical mindset from the start, yet the fantastical art (Ada astride a winged horse)
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and the book’s opening line, “Once there was a girl named Ada who dreamed of making a steam-powered flying horse” create a quite suitably different mood. The daughter of poet, Lord Byron and mathematician Anne Milbanke was schooled in all things mathematical, but even though she never knew her father (her mother left him when Ada was only two), Ada was singularly creative and found the poetry in mathematics. Born during the Industrial Revolution, Ada was entranced by machines and grew up to be intrigued by Charles Babbage’s designs for what would be the prototype of the modern computer. Ada created an algorithm to compute a complicated series of numbers, and while young readers won’t understand the mathematics, they will appreciate the illustrations conveying the “Bernoulli numbers.” Whimsical collages that create a 3-D effect aptly illustrate this unusual picture book biography and convey the need for imagination in the world of mathematics.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, The World’s First Computer Programmer by author/illustrator Fiona Robinson tells the story of Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, born in 1815, who became a mathematician and writer. Today she is chiefly known as the creator of the first computer
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algorithm because of her work on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.

Interestingly, Ada was also the only legitimate child of the poet George, Lord Byron and his wife Anne, Lady Wentworth. Byron, while now regarded as one of the greatest British poets, during his life was known for his aristocratic excesses, including huge debts and numerous love affairs with both men and women. Lady Wentworth left her husband a month after Ada was born, and Byron left England forever four months later; Ada never knew him.

Ada’s mother was a skilled mathematician herself; her husband called her “The Princess of Parallelograms.” She encouraged her daughter to study numbers. Poetry, the preoccupation of her father, was not allowed.

When Ada was seventeen, she met Charles Babbage, an engineer, mathematician, and inventor. They became friends over the years, with Ada especially excited over his description of his “Analytical Engine,” recognized today as the world’s first computer design. Babbage had been inspired by the workings of the Jacquard Loom, which used a string of punched cards for guiding complicated patterns in weaving. Ada offered to figure out how to use the concept to calculate sums.

The Analytical Engine was never made, and Ada died of cancer at the age of thirty-six. But one hundred years after her death in 1852, creators of the first working computers “were stunned by Ada’s futuristic notes and algorithm for Mr. Babbage’s machine.” She, the author writes, saw a future no one else could envision.

Today, computer programmers are very familiar at least with her name; the computer language Ada, created on behalf of the United States Department of Defense, was named after her.

The author/illustrator created the whimsical pictures for the book using Japanese watercolors. As she reports in an Artist’s Note, “The paintings were then cut out using more than five hundred X-Acto blades, assembled, and glued to different depths to achieve a 3-D final artwork.

Evaluation: Ada's story, especially that of her unusual upbringing, is quite interesting. And it may inspire young girls to get interested in the STEM program - a curriculum based emphasizing four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.
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