Ada Byron is the only legitimate child of the notorious poet Lord Byron. Like him she is passionate and adventurous, but she inherited another side from her mother -- an analytical mind and love of purity. In her mother, Lady Byron, these qualities find release in sadomasochistic piety and domination. In Ada, they create a passion for mathematics. Mathematics is her first drug. It will not be her last.Isolated in the cold splendor of their Leicestershire estate, Lady Byron rules her daughter with devout intolerance, giving her an exceptional private education but no affection. After running away from home and falling dangerously ill, she makes her London debut, a fat ungainly girl who meets the surly inventor Charles Babbage. So begins one of history’s oddest couples: the fiftyish widower who alienates almost everyone, and the teenaged aristocrat with an unladylike fascination for mathematics. They form a platonic but emotionally-charged friendship centered around Babbage’s Difference Engine. Through their collaboration we enter the astonishing cultural and scientific upheaval of early Victorian England, a time when the hierarchy of king, lord, yeoman and serf was shattering, socialism was rising, factories were thrashing the agrarian life, and England was cracking its whip over much of the globe. Ada’s circle includes a young Charles Dickens and scientists such as Michael Faraday.After a disastrous failed elopement, she rushes to marry and finds herself trapped with a violently abusive husband twice her age. Bearing children in quick succession, she seeks escape in laudanum, alcohol, gambling, adultery, and blackmail. Ada careens through the Victorian age’s hypocrisy and grace, the violent social and intellectual upheavals that were displacing God and Man, cataclysmic power struggles with her mother, and the intimations of a coming century that will culminate in the triumph (for good or evil) of The Machine. Through her we experience nineteenth-century London’s social spectrum, from the royal court to ratting dens to the Lambeth slums.