Mary Somerville

Standard Name: Somerville, Mary
Birth Name: Mary Fairfax
Married Name: Mary Greig
Married Name: Mary Somerville
Eminent Scottish mathematician and scientist MS was best known as the author of four popular expository texts on science: Mechanism of the Heavens (1831), On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834), Physical Geography (1848), and On Molecular and Microscopic Science (1869). She also published the results of three of her experiments, an article on Halley's comet, and an autobiography.
Image from head-and-shoulders chalk drawing of Mary Somerville by James Rannie Swinton, 1848. She looks down, away from the viewer, wearing a white scarf and white ruffled cap, her dark smooth hair parted in the middle and pulled back. This was engraved as frontispiece to her "Physical Geography", vol. i, 1848.
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Connections Sort descending Author name Excerpt
Education Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon
Her aunt Julia was a great influence on BLSB , who through her met Harriet Martineau , Mary Somerville , and Amelia Opie .
Family and Intimate relationships Florence Nightingale
FN 's mother was born Frances (Fanny) Smith , the daughter of abolitionist and member of parliament William Smith . Fanny's grandfather was a wealthy London merchant. One of Fanny's acquaintances was Mary Somerville .
Dossey, Barbara Montgomery. Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer. Springhouse Corporation, 2000.
Nightingale, Florence. Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale. Editors Vicinus, Martha and Bea Nergaard, Harvard University Press, 1990.
Family and Intimate relationships Frances Power Cobbe
Lloyd was the daughter of the squire of Rhagatt in Merionethshire, Wales; a maiden aunt in the family had been a friend of the Ladies of Llangollen (Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby )...
Friends, Associates Jessie Boucherett
Partly through her membership of the Kensington Society (a social and political discussion group of about fifty women inaugurated in 1865), JB broadened her acquaintance with significant members of the feminist movement, including Frances Power Cobbe
Friends, Associates Henry Peter, Baron Brougham
Brougham had a number of friends among women writers. He was at primary school in Edinburgh with Susan Ferrier (who, however, declined to acknowledge him later, probably for political reasons). His political work brought him...
Friends, Associates Jane Marcet
JM probably knew her husband's friends Edward Jenner and William Hyde Wollaston ; she certainly knew and corresponded with John Yelloy . She was a friend on her own account of Margaret Bryan ,
Marcet, Jane. “Introduction”. Chemistry in the Schoolroom: 1806, edited by Hazel Rossotti, AuthorHouse, 2006, p. i - xxi.
iii, v n6
Friends, Associates Augusta Ada Byron
AAB became friendly with and sought mathematical guidance from Mary Somerville .
Patterson, Elizabeth Chambers. Mary Somerville and the Cultivation of Science, 1815-1840. Martinus Nijhoff, 1983.
Friends, Associates Harriet Martineau
HM 's social circle vastly expanded at this time until she knew virtually all the prominent people, particularly the political men, of her day. As she recorded in her Autobiography, however, she refused to...
Friends, Associates Georgiana Chatterton
In Italy GC met one of her closest friends, Helen Selina Blackwood , Caroline Norton 's elder sister.
Dering, Edward Heneage, and Georgiana Chatterton. Memoirs of Georgiana, Lady Chatterton. Hurst and Blackett, 1878.
Blain, Virginia, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, editors. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present. Yale University Press; Batsford, 1990.
Back in England, she met and liked Walter Savage Landor .
Dering, Edward Heneage, and Georgiana Chatterton. Memoirs of Georgiana, Lady Chatterton. Hurst and Blackett, 1878.
She moved and entertained...
Friends, Associates Frances Power Cobbe
During her months in Florence, FPC visited the Brownings, Thomas Adolphus Trollope , and Walter Savage Landor . While there she also became a close friend of Mary Somerville .
Cobbe, Frances Power. Life of Frances Power Cobbe. Houghton, Mifflin, 1894.
2: 346-9, 358
Friends, Associates Elizabeth Rigby
While in Florence, she met Mary Somerville , the mathematician and astronomer.
Rigby, Elizabeth. Journals and Correspondence of Lady Eastlake. Editor Smith, Charles Eastlake, AMS Press, 1975.
2: 104
Friends, Associates Frances Power Cobbe
During her 1860 sojourn in Italy she declined an invitation to meet George Eliot because the latter was living with a married man. Her friendship with distinguished scientist Mary Somerville blossomed during this trip, and...
Friends, Associates Maria Edgeworth
Among her many social engagements, she attended a house-party at the home of Whig MP and agriculturalist Sir John Sebright , whose guests included Dr Wollaston and the science-writers Jane Marcet and Mary Somerville ...
Friends, Associates Joanna Baillie
On the other hand she was fully appreciative of Maria Edgeworth , whom she first met on 16 May 1813. She sounded a little patronising about Edgeworth after this first meeting, but felt an immediate...
Friends, Associates Eliza Fletcher
Joanna Baillie (a well qualified judge) thought few people have so many friends as EF , and that they all warmly esteemed as well as loving her.
Baillie, Joanna. The Collected Letters of Joanna Baillie. Editor Slagle, Judith Bailey, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999.
2: 699
At first meeting, Fletcher did not...


11 October 1797
A British victory over the Dutch in the naval battle of Camperdown restored the reputation of the navy after the mutiny at Spithead earlier that year.
Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville were awarded honorary memberships by the Royal Astronomical Society .
17 February 1847
The Whittington Club (named after the poor boy who became Lord Mayor of London) held its first meeting. Unlike traditional gentlemen's clubs, it welcomed women and lower-middle-class men.
2 May 1857
A grand dome designed by Panizzi was opened in what had been the central courtyard of the British Museum .
Educator Anne Sheepshanks was awarded honorary membership in the Royal Society .
April 1879
James Murray —editor since 1 March of what was to become the Oxford English Dictionary—issued an Appeal for readers to supply illustrative quotations.
October 1879
Somerville College , one of the two first residential women's colleges at Oxford University, opened its doors to students.
The working-class, popular, evangelical writer Marianne Farningham (born Mary Ann Hearne or Hearn ) published as Eva Hope a book called Queens of Literature of the Victorian Era which reveals unexpected feminist sympathies.
Eva Hope 's Queens of Literature of the Victorian Era singled out Mary Somerville , Harriet Martineau , Elizabeth Barrett Browning , Charlotte Brontë , George Eliot , and Felicia Hemans .
By 18 August 1888
Lucy Walford published Four Biographies from Blackwood's.


Somerville, Mary. A Preliminary Dissertation to the Mechanism of the Heavens by Mary Somerville. W. Clowes, 1832.
Somerville, Mary. “Art. VII. -1. Ueber den Halleyschen Cometen. Von Littrow. Wien, 1835. 2. Ueber den Halleyschen Cometen. Von Professor von Encke. Berliner Jarbuch, 1835”. Quarterly Review, Vol.
, pp. 195-33.
Somerville, Mary, François Arago, and François Arago. “Experiments on the Transmission of Chemical Rays of the Solar Spectrum across Different Areas. Excerpt from a letter of Mrs Somerville’s to Mr. Arago”. Comptes Rendus Hebdomadaires des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences, Vol.
, pp. 473-6.
Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace,. Mechanism of the Heavens. Translator Somerville, Mary, John Murray, 1831.
Somerville, Mary. On Molecular and Microscopic Science. John Murray, 1869.
Somerville, Mary. “On the Action of the Rays of the Spectrum on Vegetable Juices. ”. Abstracts of the Papers Communicated to the Royal Society of London from 1843 to 1850, Vol.
, p. 569.
Somerville, Mary. On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences. Arno Press, 1975.
Somerville, Mary. “On the Magnetizing Power of the more Refrangible Solar Rays”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol.
, pp. I: 132 - 9.
Somerville, Mary. Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville. Editor Somerville, Martha, John Murray, 1873.
Somerville, Mary. Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age, of Mary Somerville. Editor Somerville, Martha, Roberts Brothers, 1874.
Somerville, Mary. Physical Geography. John Murray, 1848.
Somerville, Mary. Physical Geography. Lea and Blanchard, 1850.