Box icon Mary Somerville (1780-1872)

Queen of Science

Portrait of Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville, although she did not make any new discoveries, was one of the great popular science and mathematics writers of the 19th century. She was one of the first women to become an honorary member of The Royal Astronomical Society and Somerville College at Oxford University was named in her honour.

These achievements are even more remarkable as she had, as a child, limited formal education. Her father did not approve of her being educated and banned her from using their stock of candles to read mathematical works in bed.

Even into old age Somerville retained a sharp mind and keen interest in scientific developments. She knew the great scientists of her time and corresponded with many of them.

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NRA Name: Somerville, Mary (1780-1872), science writer and mathematics expositor.

The National Register of Archives (NRA) contains information on the nature and location of manuscripts and historical records that relate to British history in archival holdings in the UK and overseas. You can find more information on the National Register of Archives name authority catalogue.


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'Of course I shortly discuss Darwins theory in my life it was too important a subject to be passed over, but it is much better to leave it out in the Phys. Geog. which is intended for schools and children.'
– Letter from Somerville to Murray, January 1869 (Acc.12604/84).



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