Mary Somerville

1 portrait on display in the Ladies Drawing Room at Bodelwyddan Castle

Mary Somerville, by James Rannie Swinton, 1848 - NPG 690 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mary Somerville

by James Rannie Swinton
chalk, 1848
27 1/4 in. x 23 7/8 in. (692 mm x 607 mm) oval, uneven
Bequeathed by the sitter's daughter, Miss Martha Somerville, 1883
Primary Collection
NPG 690


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  • Mary Somerville (1780-1872), Scientific scholar and writer. Sitter in 5 portraits.

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Born in Jedburgh, Scotland, to parents who did not believe in education for daughters, Mary Fairfax taught herself Euclid, algebra and the Classics at the age of fifteen. Her marriage to her cousin Samuel Greig, who was hostile to her intellectualism, ended when he died after only a few years of marriage. Mary Greig went on to study mathematics and was encouraged in her studies by her second husband, the surgeon William Somerville, whom she married in 1812. Her paper on the violet rays of the solar spectrum (1926) and her edition of Laplace's La mécanique céleste brought her much acclaim and she was elected as an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society. Other major works in the fields of mathematics and science followed.

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