Mar 022024

Christina Miller Building, 75 James Dewar Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3BG

A modern building constructed of brick at the bottom and grey and turquoise panelling higher up.  There is a stone path leading to glass door.  At the start of the path is a short blue sign reading “Christina Miller Building”.

Christina Miller (1899 – 2001) was a Scottish chemist and the first female chemist to be elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Miller suffered from various childhood illnesses which caused severe damage to her hearing, and as a result many career pathways were closed to her. However, she decided to study chemistry at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. She graduated with a special distinction, the class medal and the Vans Dunlop Scholarship. Miller went on to pursue a PhD, and her work was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Post-PhD, Miller obtained the first ever sample of pure phosphorus trioxide and became so successful in her field that she obtained a Doctor of Science (DSc) before the age of 30.  She was one of the first women to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1949. Her vast contributions to chemistry are honoured by the Christina Miller Building in the King’s Buildings at the University of Edinburgh.

Old black and white photo of a woman with short dark hair and dark eyes wearing a graduation gown and holding a diploma.

Christina Miller, graduation photo, 1920s
Old black and white photo of a dark-haired woman in a white lab coat working a chemistry lab full of glass equipment visible in the light from a large window.

Christina Miller in the chemistry lab, 1930s


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Jun 212019

Photograph of 53 Northumberland Street

53 Northumberland Street (© Stephen C Dickson via Wikimedia Commons)

53 Northumberland Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6JQ; marked with a blue plaque

Mary Sommerville (1780-1872) is often described as the “queen of science in the 19th Century.” A writer and polymath, she wrote the ground-breaking interdisciplinary book On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834), combining the latest scientific advances in astronomy, physics, chemistry, botany, and geology. Though she wrote extensively on a variety of subjects and was the first person referenced as a “scientist” (in a review of her work in 1834), it is her contribution to Astronomy that is particularly notable: Mary Sommerville was one of the first people to propose the existence of planet Neptune. She was also one of the first two women to be elected members of the Royal Astronomical Society (1835) and co-signatory of John Stuart Mill’s 1866 petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote. Born in Jedburgh in the Borders and growing up in Burntisland, Fife, Mary Somerville lived at 53 Northumberland Street between 1813-16.

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Portrait of Mary Sommerville by Thomas Philips

Portrait of Mary Sommerville by Thomas Philips (Wikimedia Commons)

Cover page of The Connexion of the Physical Sciences

Cover page of The Connexion (1834)