Nearly two centuries ago, two great minds and distinguished individuals among the English rich collaborated to create and program the Analytical Engine: the world’s first mechanical computer. Although Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine was never built during his lifetime, in Sydney Padua‘s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, he and Ada Lovelace team up to build their wonderful machine and use it to improve British lives.
Borne out of a comic Padua created for Ada Lovelace Day, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage takes place in a Pocket Universe, in which time is a little…funny. Here, Augusta Ada King does not die of uterine cancer at age 36, nor does she languish in an unhappy marriage to William King-Noel, 1st Earl of Lovelace. Instead, Lovelace is free to explore both mathematics and poetry, the latter of which was largely forbidden during her short lifetime, due to the incestuous disgrace of her father: George Gordon, Lord Byron.
Sticklers for historical accuracy will not be disappointed by The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. Padua takes every effort to document when and where she found the inspiration behind her heroes’ dialogue and motivations. The illustrator draws from the private letters of both Lovelace and Babbage, as well as contemporaneous newspaper and other reports on their friendship and society gossip. Lovelace and Babbage also includes detailed explanations of how the real-life Babbage’s Analytical Engine worked, and dissects the all-too-common argument that Lovelace was a fraud who used her computer-genius friend to get ahead.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is the perfect read for any history or literature buff looking for a steampunk-ish romp through the 19th century. By the time you close the cover, you’ll be searching desperately for read-alikes.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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Image credit: Alfred Edward Chalon (original painting), Science & Society Picture Library on Wikimedia Commons