Mary Somerville, British mathematician

Mary Somerville, British mathematician

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Mary Somerville (1780-1872), British mathematician. Born Mary Fairfax, Somerville educated herself despite opposition from her family. Her second husband encouraged her interests, and through him she met many of the leading scientists of the time. Somerville was able to explain ideas in an accessible way. She published a translation of Laplace's Mechanique Celeste (1831). Her suggestion in The Connexion of Physical Sciences (1834) that the orbit of Uranus is perturbed by an unknown outer planet led to J.C. Adams' calculation of the orbit of this planet (Neptune). Somerville College, Oxford University, England, was named in her honour.

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