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Mary Somerville, Scottish mathematician

Mary Somerville, Scottish mathematician

C004/0969

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ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872), Scottish mathematician. She was born at jedburgh, daughter of an admiral. She married in 1804, but when her husband died in 1807 it became socially acceptable for her to study. Her second husband encouraged and helped her, and she was able to meet many of the great scientists of the day. In 1831 she published a translation of "Mechanique Celeste" by Laplace, her work making the complex theories readily understandable by a lay audience. Her 1834 work "The Connexion of Physical Sciences" was an enormous success and included the first suggestion of an unknown outer planet (later discovered and called Uranus). In that same year, she and Caroline Herschel were elected the first women Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society. Somerville continued publishing popular books on science into her 90s. Somerville College at Oxford University is named after her.

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