Mary Somerville by James Rannie Swinton (1844). Courtesy of The Principal and Fellows of Somerville College
Mary Fairfax Somerville was a student of mathematics and astronomy, overcoming limited educational opportunities by teaching herself (sometimes in secret, after her parents decided that studying damaged women’s health and forbade her to learn any more mathematics). She went on to translate Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Mécanique Céleste into a popular English edition, and write best-selling books on science and geography. In 1835, she became one of the two first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society. Somerville College was named after Mary Somerville in 1879.
Mary Somerville by James Rannie Swinton (1844). Courtesy of The Principal and Fellows of Somerville College.