Mary Fairfax Somerville

“I hid my papers as soon as the bell announced a visitor lest anyone discover my secret.” (Personal recollections, 1873)

Mary Somerville, née Mary Fairfax was a leading mathematician and author of important books on the sciences: it was in connection with a review of one of these that the term “scientist” first appeared in print. Indeed her influential works synthesized many different scientific disciplines. Apart from mathematics, she studied astronomy and was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society with Caroline Herschel.She was a prominent supporter of women’s rights, the first to sign Stuart Mill’s 1866 petition to Parliament to give women the right to vote.