Feb 282024

53 Northumberland Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6JQ

A two-storey sandstone rowhouse with 5 windows, a white front door, and a small plaque to the left of the front door.

Mary Somerville (1780 – 1872) was a Scottish mathematician and astronomer, and one of the first two women to become an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society, alongside Caroline Herschel. She was one of the first to suggest the existence of Neptune, and she famously tutored Ada Lovelace, who became the “mother of modern computing”. Somerville wrote many successful journal articles and books in her lifetime, one of which, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences, was its publisher’s most successful science book until Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Somerville was the first person to ever be referred to as “scientist”, and her extensive contributions to academia are commemorated by this plaque, at the house where she lived in Edinburgh.

A black plaque with decorative gold knotted borders reading: Mary Fairfax Somerville, 1780-1872, “The queen of 19th century science, astronomer, scientist and polymath, lived here.”
Portrait painting of a dark-haired woman with her hair up in a 1700s style, wearing a dark blue gown with a white ruff and a brown fur stole.
A row of antique book spines with the author Somerville and the following titles: Mechanism of the Heavens, On Molecular and Microscopic Science, Physical Geography, On the Connexions of the Physical Sciences, and Personal Recollections.

Book titles written by Somerville. Books image via Canva, remixed with titles.


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