The Difference Dictonary

Laissez faire economics - An economic theory, first propounded in the 18th century by Adam Smith, that held that individuals should be allowed to pursue their own interests, with as little government interference as possible. Property rights were sacred, landlords and employers were to be given almost complete control over tenants and workers. (Sound familiar?) The prosperity of 19th century England is said to be grounded in laissez faire capitalism.

Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) - French poet and politician, one of the leading figures of the French Romantic movement. In politics, he leaned to the left, and after the February Revolution of 1848, he was elected one of the five members of the executive committee. He left politics a poor man in 1851, and wrote a number of historical and biographical works.

LaudanumLaudanum - A hydroalcoholic tincture containing ten percent opium. The first medicinal form of opium, laudanum was widely used through the 19th century for a variety of diseases and to quiet fretful babies and children, for it was available without a prescription. Among its addicts were S.T. Coleridge, E.A. Poe, A. Swineburne, E.B. Browning, and D.G. Rossetti.
Confessions of a Young Lady Laudanum Drinker, 1889
Opium & Infant Mortality

Ada Lovelace Augusta Ada Lovelace Byron (1815-1852) - Byron's only legitimate daughter. She is best known now as "the first computer programmer," but this is probably not true. In her 1985 biography, Dorothy Stein argues that Ada, in the celebrated article on the Analytical Engine that is the source of her reputation, operated more as a technical writer, one of boundless enthusiasm but limited understanding, working with Babbage to produce a precis of his work. Stein also debunks a number of other Ada myths, the chief of which is that Babbage and Ada collaborated in trying to devise a foolproof mode of winning at gambling in order to raise money to build the Analytical Engine. Ada was an obsessive gambler, but Stein finds no evidence that Babbage collaborated with her or that she even used a system.
The article on the engine was published under only her initials, and Ada's life was lived pretty much out of the public eye, aside from a certain notoriety attached to her as Byron's daughter and a small amount of gossip about her love affairs. She was given to bouts of sickness, interspersed with short periods of health, and threw herself into her enthusiasms (science and mathematics, music, gambling) with an energy that suggests the presence of a bipolar disorder. Stein considers a diagnosis of manic-depression, tracing a family history back to Ada's grandfather, "Mad Jack" Byron, but favors the possibility that Ada had a hereditary disease called porphyrias. Biographer Betty Toole disputes Stein's conclusions. Biographer Doris Moore attributes Ada's boundless and somewhat tedious enthusiasm for her own intellect to the taking of laudnaum.
A capsule biography of Ada Lovelace, with links to other sites
Ada at Yale
Interesting questions about Ada, raised by Betty Toole

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The Difference Dictionary was first published
in slightly different form in Science Fiction Eye, Issue #8.
Text copyright 1990, 1996, 2000, 2003,
by Eileen K. Gunn.

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