Reviews||

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

25th May 2016

★★★★
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage
The entertaining story of the eccentric scientific duo who pioneered the ‘first computer’.

 

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage started as a webcomic, taking a lighthearted look at compelling Victorian-era scientific collaborators Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace.

Writer and artist Sydney Padua ended up falling in love with her subjects and creating a hefty tome based on their antics, real and imagined.

Ada Lovelace, daughter of infamous romantic poet Lord Byron, became a collaborator and friend to renowned mathematician Charles Babbage when she was a teenager. He was a bitter older man who retained his passion for maths despite multiple setbacks.

Lovelace was a mathematician in an era when it was frowned upon for ladies to do such work. Not only that, but she was an incredibly accomplished ‘enchantress’ of mathematics (in Babbage’s words). She was also a pioneer of the idea of software.

Lovelace is now often referred to as ‘the world’s first computer programmer’ and Babbage the inventor of the machines which predate today’s computers.

The author’s enthusiasm for the duo is infectious, creating a desire for them to live longer and achieve more. This is satisfied by the section of the book set in ‘the Pocket Universe’, a steampunk dream which in fact comprises the majority of the book.

The author’s enthusiasm for the duo is infectious

Padua’s animation background shines through in the artwork. The black and white drawings are fun and lively, displaying the movements and mannerisms of the eccentric characters. There are also diagrams explaining some of the mechanisms invented by Babbage.

The author’s breadth of research is incredibly impressive, to the point where even the imaginary parts of the story provide opportunities for education. Unfortunately the many footnotes, endnotes and appendices can disrupt the flow of reading at times.

However, the amusing heroes and nerdy jokes ensure the story doesn’t drift off into dry history book territory. The footnotes also provide an opportunity for the author’s likeable personality to shine through, in the form of her palpable enthusiasm and comedic self-deprecation.

Historical illustrations combine with Padua’s own, alongside some amusing asides from Victorian newspapers, creating a visually interesting compendium. Flicking through the book at random can also be entertaining, given that the storyline isn’t too plot-driven and there are some great images to be found (a reason in favour of the hardcover rather than the Kindle edition).

An impeccably researched and lively tale full of worthy and entertaining characters.