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Queen Of Science: Personal Recollections of Mary Somerville

Queen Of Science: Personal Recollections of Mary Somerville (Paperback)

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Synopsis

Born in Jedburgh in 1780, Mary Fairfax was the daughter of one of Nelson's captains, and in common with most girls of her time and station she was given the kind of education which prizes gentility over ability. Nevertheless, she taught herself algebra in secret, and made her reputation in celestial mechanics with her 1831 translation of Laplace's Mecanique celeste as The Mechanism of the Heavens. As she was equally interested in art, literature and nature Somerville's lively memoirs give a fascinating picture of her life and times from childhood in Burntisland to international recognition and retirement in Naples. She tells of her friendship with Maria Edgeworth and of her encounters with Scott and Fenimore Cooper. She remembers comets and eclipses, high society in London and Paris, Charles Babbage and his calculating engine, the Risorgimento in Italy and the eruption of Vesuvius. Selected by her daughter and first published in 1973, these are the memoirs of a remarkable woman who became one of the most gifted mathematicians and scientists of the nineteenth century.

Oxford's Somerville College was named after her, and the present volume, re-edited by Dorothy McMillan, draws on manuscripts owned by the college and offers the first unexpurgated edition of these revelatory writings.

BiographyBiography: generalBiography: historical, political & militaryBiographyBiography: generalBiography: science, medicine, technology & engineeringScience & MathematicsAstronomy, space & timeTheoretical & mathematical astronomyScience & MathematicsMathematicsScience & MathematicsScience: general issuesHistory of science Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd Publication Date: 30/09/2001 ISBN-13: 9781841951362  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
Availability: To Order. Estimated despatch in 1-3 weeks.  

Mary Somerville was born on 26 December 1780 in a manse at Jedburgh, the home of her mother's sister. She was the fifth child of William George Fairfax, a Lieutenant in Nelson's navy (later a Vice-Admiral) and his second wife, Margaret Charters. Four of the couple's seven children survived. They were brought up in Burntisland where Mary Somerville spent her childhood and adolescence. She attended a school in Musselburgh whose chief aim it was to teach girls to be gracious. Despite the obstacles that were put tin her way she pursued her own interests in mathematics and the classics. In 1804 she married her cousin Samuel Greig and they went to stay in London, but she was left with two young children when her husband died only three years later at the age of twenty-nine. Mary returned to her parents' home where she continued her studies in algebra and geometry. In 1812 she married another of her cousins, William Somerville, an army doctor. The couple soon moved to London again where William took up a post as physician at the Chelsea Hospital. Mary Somerville continued her studies and was in her early forties when her scientific interests began to make their mark. In 1831 she published a translation of Laplace's Mecanique Celeste originally intended as one of the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge but in the end published by John Murray. This work was soon adopted for courses in Cambridge and made her reputation. It was followed by The Connexion of the Physical Sciences in 1834 and the award of a government pension the following year. Scientists throughout Europe Mary Somerville and her work was widely translated.

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