1. How do you think the loneliness and isolation of Ada’s childhood and her mother’s jealousy of the nurses Ada loves affect her as she grows into adolescence?
2. What is it about flight that captivates Ada’s imagination? The scientific aspects of Flyology fascinate her, of course, but what else could Ada’s desire to create wings for herself represent?
3. How does her status as the daughter of the renowned poet Lord Byron shape Ada’s life? What is it like growing up in the shadow of his brilliance and infamy? What similarities and differences do you see between Ada’s experiences and those of the children of celebrities today?
4. Why do you think Ada’s mother was so fearful of Ada’s imagination and “the influence of [her] bad Byron blood?” Why does she forbid her daughter to indulge in fairy tales, poetry, and make-believe play, even though she herself writes poetry?
5. The first time Ada visits Babbage’s home, she is introduced to his dancing automaton, which arrests her attention. She draws closer to it, “longing to trace the lines of the dancer’s face with my fingertip. Even her eyes seemed alive, full of mischief and imagination.” Why was she so fascinated by the Silver Lady?
6. After an argument with her mother, Ada muses, “I realized that the only way I could escape her control any sooner would be to marry.” What are Ada’s expectations for marriage? Are they fulfilled? Does she enjoy more independence or less as a married woman, or are her circumstances essentially unchanged?
7. Ada mentions that Mrs. Somerville, though very accomplished in science and mathematics, was barred from the Royal Society because she was a woman. How is Ada affected by this? Does she feel the loss of this exclusion? Why or why not?
8. Why do you think Ada was so enthralled by Babbage’s inventions, both the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine? How does Ada’s poetic and imaginative mind help her understand their potential even more so than Babbage himself?
9. At various periods throughout her life, friends and family worry that Ada is dangerously obsessed with mathematics and science, often describing her pursuit of knowledge as a “mania.” Ada fiercely rejects this label. Do you agree with Ada, or do you think her friends and family had some cause for concern? Why or why not?
10. Compare and contrast Ada and Lord King’s courtship to her mother and Lord Byron’s and their early years of marriage.
11. Ada’s love for her mother wavers between reverence and resentment. How does this affect Ada’s own childrearing?
12. All her life, Ada has been told that her foremost duty is to marry and produce an heir. Why is this not enough for her? Why is she driven to create a “Great Work” of mathematics or science as her legacy?