© 2016

The Ascent of Mary Somerville in 19th Century Society


  • A fascinating study of the challenges facing a talented woman at the start of the 19th Century

  • Of equal interest to historians of mathematics, social scientists, and biography aficionados

  • Gives interesting insights into the cultural differences across 19th Century Europe


Part of the Springer Biographies book series (SPRINGERBIOGS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 1-8
  3. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 9-20
  4. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 21-27
  5. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 29-31
  6. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 33-39
  7. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 41-45
  8. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 47-53
  9. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 55-59
  10. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 61-63
  11. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 65-68
  12. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 69-73
  13. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 75-76
  14. Elisabetta Strickland
    Pages 77-79
  15. Back Matter
    Pages 81-102

About this book


This biography traces the life and work of Mary Fairfax Somerville, whose extraordinary mathematical talent only came to light through fortuitous circumstances. Barely taught to read and write as a child, all the science she learned and mastered was self taught. In this delightful narrative the author takes up the challenge of discovering how Somerville came to be one of the most outstanding British women scientists and, furthermore, a popular writer. Particular attention is paid to the gender aspects of Somerville's success in what was, to put it mildly, a predominantly male domain.


Mary Somerville biography Women in mathematics Women in astronomy Women in science Gender issues in the history of science Women's studies in mathematics 19th Century Mathematics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Università di Roma Tor Vergata RomaItaly

About the authors

Elisabetta Strickland is full professor of Algebra at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata”. She was Deputy-President of the National Institute of Advanced Mathematics from 2007 to 2015. In 2014 she became a member of the Women in Mathematics Committee of the European Mathematical Society and, in 2015, President of the Central Committee for the promotion of equal opportunities, workers’ welfare and non-discrimination (CUG) of her University. She is also co-founder of the Gender Interuniversity Observatory GIO of the state Universities of Rome. She is the author of “Scienziate d’Italia”, Donzelli Ed. 2011. In 2013 the Capitoline Administration awarded her the Prize “Excellent Women in Rome”.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Ascent of Mary Somerville in 19th Century Society
  • Authors Elisabetta Strickland
  • Series Title Springer Biographies
  • Series Abbreviated Title Springer Biographies
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG 2016
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Mathematics and Statistics Mathematics and Statistics (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-49192-9
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-84100-7
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-49193-6
  • Series ISSN 2365-0613
  • Series E-ISSN 2365-0621
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVII, 102
  • Number of Illustrations 12 b/w illustrations, 7 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Mathematical Sciences
    Gender Studies
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Mary Fairfax Somerville, a British woman also called ‘the Queen of Science,’ was the last representative of a category of scholars with a wide range of interests. … in this biography the author, the mathematician Elisabetta Strickland, emphasizes above all her familial and professional relationships. … This book is a pleasant and sliding reading, suitable especially for those who have no scientific basis.” (Gabriella Bernardi, Astrocom et al.,, July, 2017)