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IEEE Annals of the History of Computing Volume 15 Number 3 -- Reviews

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129790D
Original Publication Date: 1993-Sep-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 8 page(s) / 97K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

PEGGY A. KIDWELL: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

The Reviews department includes reviews of publications, films, audio- and videotapes, and exhibits relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of technical, economic, business, social, and institutional aspects or other works of interest to Annals readers are briefly noted, with appropriate bibliographic information. Colleagues are encouraged to recommend works they wish to review and to suggest titles to the Reviews editor. Betty Alexandra Toole, narrator and editor, Ada, Enchantress of Numbers, Strawberry Press, Mill Valley, Calif., 1992, 419 pp. + xv, $29.95.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1993 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Reviews

PEGGY A. KIDWELL, EDITOR

The Reviews department includes reviews of publications, films, audio- and videotapes, and exhibits relating to the history of computing. Full-length studies of technical, economic, business, social, and institutional aspects or other works of interest to Annals readers are briefly noted, with appropriate bibliographic information.

Colleagues are encouraged to recommend works they wish to review and to suggest titles to the Reviews editor.

Betty Alexandra Toole, narrator and editor, Ada, Enchantress of Numbers, Strawberry Press, Mill Valley, Calif., 1992, 419 pp. + xv, $29.95.

The subtitle of this volume serves as a good descriptor of its contents: "A Selection from the Letters of Lord Byron's Daughter and Her Description of the First Computer." It has received favorable literary reviews but is not without value for readers of this journal in terms of what it adds to information in recently published works on Ada and Babbage by Doris Langley Moore and Anthony Hyman.

In her introduction, Toole presents sufficient historical background and biographical material to provide readers with adequate information not only about Ada, but also about members of her family and her friends. They are central not only to understanding her varied interests, but also to understanding the society within which she lived and worked. Toole also helps illuminate the contents by describing her motivation in selecting, from the vast body of material, the particular correspondence which appears in this volume.

One aspect that I found most interesting in the collection was letters that illustrated how Ada's mind worked in her study of mathematics. As a young girl, her first serious mathematical tutor was William Frend, Augustus DeMorgan's father-in-law. As a Cambridge undergraduate, Frend achieved the major accomplishment of being second wrangler and Smith's prizeman on the mathematical tripos. Initially appointed a fellow at Cambridge, he was later banished as a result of his religious writings following his conversion to Unitarianism. Resident in London, he gave Ada a mathematical course of study similar to that of Cambridge students, which included the first four books of Euclid. In two of her letters to Dr. William King (March 24, 1834, and April 13, 1834) she describes her progress in Euclid. In the second of these letters she writes,

  (Image Omitted: Can it be proved by means of propositions and deductions from the 1st book only, that equilateral triangles being constructed on the sides of a right-angled triangle and also on the hypotenuse, the sum of the triangles on the sides is equal to the triangle on the hypotenuse?)

Readers will recognize this as a special form of the Pythagorean theorem for triangles instead of squares.

In a lett...