by Nur Hussein, staff writer
Happy Ada Lovelace Day! It is a day to commemorate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and it is named after Lady Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, the 19th century mathematician who did ground-breaking work in computer science, and more commonly known as Ada Lovelace. Ada was the only (legitimate) daughter of the poet Lord Byron. Lord Byron had a troubled relationship with his wife Anne Isabella which led to their separation a month after she gave birth to Ada, and it led to Ada’s mother raising her daughter in the study of mathematics to steer her far away from the “mad” pursuits of poetry of her father.
Ada grew up to be a mathematician, and met the legendary Charles Babbage in 1833. Seeing the prototype for Babbage’s difference engine (an early mechanical calculator Babbage invented) led Ada to collaborate with Babbage. As a result of this cooperation, Lovelace produced remarkable observations on the theory of computing. Ada is often credited as history’s first programmer, as she wrote an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers on Charles Babbage’s theoretical design for a mechanical computer called the Analytical Engine.
Now, the historical Babbage and Lovelace never managed to actually build the Analytical Engine. However, animator and comics writer Sydney Padua has written a steampunk, speculative fiction, graphic novel about the duo, based on the following premise: what if they did build it? Titled The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, the book grew out of Padua’s webcomic about Babbage and Lovelace, which was originally just a one-shot for Ada Lovelace Day in 2009. Positive feedback led Padua to flesh it out into an entire graphic novel, which like the original comic feature a twisted, hilarious take on the original historical figures. One of Padua’s trademarks when writing the comics is the meticulously researched footnotes accompanying the joke-filled comic, and copiously referenced to actual historical documents.
Now, the book is almost ready for release, and pre-orders can now be done at Amazon for an expected delivery after 21 April 2015. However, if you’re impatient you can check out the available webcomics at Padua’s website, which also features the original one shot that inspired it all.
Better still, Pantheon Books is giving Tumblr users a chance to win a copy of the book! Check out their contest page to enter. Good luck!
Nur is a tinkerer of programmable things, an apprentice in an ancient order of technomages. He enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, and Lego in his spare time. His favourite authors are Asimov and Tolkien. He also loves Celtic and American folk music. You can follow him on twitter: @nurhussein