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Personal recollections, from early life to old age, of Mary Somerville :…

de Mary Somerville

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The autobiography of Mary Somerville, the author and scientist popularly deemed "The Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science", is a lively and candid account of a gifted and intelligent woman succeeding against the odds. Born in the late 18th century and demonstrating intellect from an early age, Mary Somerville was born to a distinguished family: the Fairfaxes. Despite her father's high rank in the Royal Navy, his pay was insufficient to meet costs, and the young Mary for a time helped her mother in growing vegetables. Appalled at finding his bright daughter put to such work, Mary's father managed to send her to school to begin formal education. In short order, Mary excelled at writing, mathematics, geometry and music. She devoured books on all of these subjects, and would return to her hometown of Edinburgh each winter knowing more of science. Emerging from university with plaudits, it was only after Mary's first husband Samuel Grieg tragically perished that she could afford to resume her studies in the University of Edinburgh. As an adult, Mary began to experiment with light and magnetism, recording her findings meticulously in her books and papers. Also avidly interested in the astronomy of the solar system, she made important findings regarding the mathematics of the planet's movements, and did much to publicize and revive interest in this and other areas of study. An experienced author, Mary's account of her own life and accomplishments are written clearly but accessibly. She is frank about her hardships and shortcomings, but ever keen to explain the importance of science and education. As a woman, she once noted that laws in Britain are adverse to her gender; the early chapters of this autobiography reveal the difficulties Mary had in obtaining a good education. Ultimately however, Mary Somerville's story is an uplifting one: a gifted and able woman gaining due recognition and success in a field and in an era where men were dominant.… (mais)

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This is an “almost liked it, but not quite” that can be directly attributed to pandemic brain. I got this off Project Gutenberg after reading about Mary Somerville in another book, and I’m glad her recollections were compiled in book form. But I just didn’t have the attention span for them, and sometimes the interstitial material by Mary’s daughter was confusing about the time and place. I will also note that at one point the book reproduces a letter in French that is not translated, so if you don’t read French, that might be a problem. Fortunately I do read French. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Dec 29, 2020 |
A really fascinating look at "The Queen of 18th Century Science". She's a little like Forest Gump in that she rubbed elbows with everyone of note during her 92 years. She offers some interesting insights to world events includng slavery, the unification of Italy and several wars as well as natural phenomena such as eclipses, comets, volcanic eruptions and the like.

It does not delve very deeply into her scientific work, though she does catalog the various books as she is working on them, as well as some of the numerous awards she received during her lifetime.

It is especially fascinating to me that she was more accepted by the men of her era than the women, and that more so in continental Europe than in her native UK. ( )
  ScoutJ | Mar 31, 2013 |
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The autobiography of Mary Somerville, the author and scientist popularly deemed "The Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science", is a lively and candid account of a gifted and intelligent woman succeeding against the odds. Born in the late 18th century and demonstrating intellect from an early age, Mary Somerville was born to a distinguished family: the Fairfaxes. Despite her father's high rank in the Royal Navy, his pay was insufficient to meet costs, and the young Mary for a time helped her mother in growing vegetables. Appalled at finding his bright daughter put to such work, Mary's father managed to send her to school to begin formal education. In short order, Mary excelled at writing, mathematics, geometry and music. She devoured books on all of these subjects, and would return to her hometown of Edinburgh each winter knowing more of science. Emerging from university with plaudits, it was only after Mary's first husband Samuel Grieg tragically perished that she could afford to resume her studies in the University of Edinburgh. As an adult, Mary began to experiment with light and magnetism, recording her findings meticulously in her books and papers. Also avidly interested in the astronomy of the solar system, she made important findings regarding the mathematics of the planet's movements, and did much to publicize and revive interest in this and other areas of study. An experienced author, Mary's account of her own life and accomplishments are written clearly but accessibly. She is frank about her hardships and shortcomings, but ever keen to explain the importance of science and education. As a woman, she once noted that laws in Britain are adverse to her gender; the early chapters of this autobiography reveal the difficulties Mary had in obtaining a good education. Ultimately however, Mary Somerville's story is an uplifting one: a gifted and able woman gaining due recognition and success in a field and in an era where men were dominant.

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