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Academic & Professional Books  Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel

Mary Somerville Science, Illumination and the Female Mind

Biography / Memoir
By: Kathryn A Neeley
263 pages, no illustrations
Mary Somerville
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  • Mary Somerville ISBN: 9780521626729 Paperback Dec 2001 Usually dispatched within 6 days
  • Mary Somerville ISBN: 9780521622998 Hardback Dec 2001 Usually dispatched within 6 days
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About this book

In an era when science was perceived as a male domain, Mary Somerville (1780-1872) became both the leading woman scientist of her day and an integral part of the British scientific community.
... certainly the most extraordinary woman in Europe - a mathematician of the very first rank with all the gentleness of a woman ... She is also a great natural philosopher and mineralogist. Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope - 1829.
This biography offers detailed analysis of the underlying patterns, themes, and rhetorical strategies of her major works.


Author's preface; Prologue; Perceiving what others do not perceive: the 'peculiar illumination' of the female mind; 1. Head among the stars, feet firm upon the earth: the problem of categorizing Mary Somerville; 2. Creating a room of her own in the world of science: how Mary Fairfax became the famous Mrs Somerville; 3. Science as exact calculation and elevated meditation: Mechanism of the Heavens (1931), Preliminary Dissertation (1832), and On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834); 4. The earth, the sea, the air, and their inhabitants: Physical Geography (1848) and On Molecular and Microscopic Science (1869); 5. Personal Recollections (1973): Mary Somerville on Mary Somerville; 6. Memory and Mary Somerville: in the public eye and historical memory; Epilogue: science, voice, and vision.

Customer Reviews

Biography / Memoir
By: Kathryn A Neeley
263 pages, no illustrations
Media reviews
'Kathryn Neeley explores Somerville's unique position: she was accepted as an eminent scientist, but also celebrated for the way she conformed to Victorian norms of womanly behaviour.' The Lancet 'Underneath the now statutory feminist gloss this is a work of great scholarship.' Contemporary Review 'Neeley's study repays careful reading and is a valuable contribution to studies of discourse, writing and gender in nineteenth-century science.' BJHS 'Neeley has provided scholars with an absorbing and definitive intellectual biography of Mary Somerville, arguably the most important woman in science during the nineteenth-century ... In sum, Neeley's book is a welcome addition to the growing bodies of scholarship re-interpreting the role of women in science, examining the relationship between science and literature, and exploring the importance of popular science.' Centauras
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