22 August 2017

from Author Dawson

We're excited to present some remarks from author Robert Dawson about his upcoming story "Ada: Or, The Limits of Logic."

As everybody knows, Ada Byron (later Lovelace) designed software for Charles Babbage's Analytic Engine, or at any rate wrote about it. But, as just about everybody knows, the Engine never got built. How frustrating! Her life went downhill, with uncooperative racehorses reputedly making things worse. She died of cancer in her thirties.

One of my goals in writing "Ada: Or, The Limits of Logic" was to imagine her as a romantic heroine - that didn't take a great deal of imagination. Another was to imagine a world big enough to allow her to do the great things that she probably dreamed of - swashbuckling, and with plenty of opportunities for women. And a third was to root it in reality as well as I could.

Ada's own family background needed little work. Her father, Lord Byron, really did flee the country after a series of scandals - and probably was the father of his half-sister's child. She had an affair with a tutor at seventeen, and tried to elope with him.

It's easy to imagine the man she did marry a couple years later -- William, Baron King -- as some "tenth transmitter of a foolish face" and intellectually far below her. Au contraire: I was fascinated to learn that, later in life, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honor that was not given out lightly even to the nobility. A few years after their marriage, he was created "Earl of Lovelace and Viscount Ockham." "Lovelace" was after an extinct title that had been in Ada's family, but why the insignificant village of Ockham in Surrey? The apparent tip of the hat (or coronet) to the philosopher and logician William of Ockham (1287–1347), the inventor of the principle known as "Occam's Razor", seems too good to be a coincidence, and does suggest some interest in logic. William, in my story, is a combination of the anonymous tutor and Ada's eventual husband.

As for Martha, Mr. Rumbolt, and the redoubtable Mrs. King - I couldn't find them, so I had to make them up myself. I hope you like all of them.

Thanks, Robert! Very interesting!

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