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R-MC Mathematics Professor Author of New Book

Apr 11, 2018


Adrian RiceRandolph-Macon College Mathematics Professor Adrian Rice is the author of a new book, which he co-wrote with his colleagues Dr. Christopher Hollings and Professor Ursula Martin of the University of Oxford. Their latest publication, Ada Lovelace: The Making of a Computer Scientist, takes a new look at the mathematics of the Victorian aristocrat Ada Lovelace (1815–1852). The book, published by Bodleian Library in the United Kingdom, is distributed by the University of Chicago Press.

The First Computer Programmer
Although most famous in her lifetime for being the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, Lovelace is today widely regarded as "the first computer programmer." This is largely due to an 1843 paper, in which she accurately described the workings of the "Analytical Engine," a theoretical machine designed by her friend Charles Babbage, which, if it had been built, would have been the world’s first programmable computer.

book coverLovelace: A Gifted Mathematician
Rice, Hollings, and Martin are the first historians of mathematics to investigate the extensive archives of the Lovelace-Byron family, held in Oxford's Bodleian Library. In two recent papers in the Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics and in Historia Mathematica, they studied Lovelace's childhood education, where her passion for mathematics was complemented by an interest in machinery and wide scientific reading; and her remarkable two-year "correspondence course" on calculus with the eminent mathematician Augustus De Morgan.

"Our research reveals Lovelace's keen eye for detail, fascination with big questions, and flair for deep insights," says Rice, "reinforcing the view that she was a gifted, perceptive and knowledgeable mathematician."

Featuring the first published photographs of Lovelace's correspondence, along with mathematical models, contemporary illustrations, and images of the "first program," the book shows how Ada Lovelace, with astonishing prescience, explored key mathematical questions to understand the principles behind modern computing.

Adrian Rice
Rice, who joined the R-MC faculty in 1999, earned his B.S. in mathematics from University College London and his Ph.D. in the history of mathematics from Middlesex University, London.

His research focuses on 19th-century and early 20th-century mathematics. His books include Mathematics Unbound: The Evolution of an International Mathematical Research Community, 1800–1945 (edited with Karen Hunger Parshall) and The London Mathematical Society Book of Presidents, 1865–1965 (written with Susan Oakes and Alan Pears). He also edited the 2011 Oxford University Press book Mathematics in Victorian Britain (with Raymond Flood and Robin Wilson) and has published numerous journal articles.

Rice is a two-time recipient of R-MC's Thomas Branch Award for Excellence in Teaching (in 2003 and 2014). In 2013, he received the John Smith Award for Distinctive College or University Teaching from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). He also received the MAA’s Carl B. Allendoerfer Award for his paper "Why Ellipses are not Elliptic Curves," which he co-authored with Professor Ezra Brown of Virginia Tech.

In 2007, he received the Trevor Evans Award for Outstanding Expository Writing from the MAA for an article he co-wrote with R-MC Mathematics Professor Eve Torrence on the mathematics of Lewis Carroll. In 2010, Rice received the Trevor Evans Award for Outstanding Expository Writing for an article entitled "Gaussian Guesswork (or Why 1.19814023473559220744... is Such a Beautiful Number)."