In an era when science was perceived as a male domain, Mary Somerville (1780–1872) became both the leading woman scientist of her day and an integral part of the British scientific community. She achieved this status through careful management of her gender identity and by creating rich, readable, and authoritative accounts of science that were rhetorically compelling, aesthetically satisfying, and valuable to the scientific community in the UK and abroad. This biography offers detailed analysis of the underlying patterns, themes, and rhetorical strategies of her major works and argues that Somerville employed a transcendent feminine style that retained the advantages but transcended the limitations usually associated with women's ways of knowing. The book advocates a new narrative for women's participation in science and demonstrates the many ways that gender relates to science and science functions in culture.Read more
- Includes and discusses the significance of previously unpublished portions of Somerville's autobiography
- Illustrates the fascinating process by which Somerville's life and career were committed to historical memory
- Treats Somerville's life as both distinctive and as an illustration of larger trends
Reviews & endorsements
'Kathryn Neeley explores Somerville's unique position: she was accepted as an eminent scientist, but also celebrated for the way she conformed to Victorian norms of womanly behaviour.' The LancetSee more reviews
'Underneath the now statutory feminist gloss this is a work of great scholarship.' Contemporary Review
'Neeley's study repays careful reading and is a valuable contribution to studies of discourse, writing and gender in nineteenth-century science.' BJHS
'Neeley has provided scholars with an absorbing and definitive intellectual biography of Mary Somerville, arguably the most important woman in science during the nineteenth-century … In sum, Neeley's book is a welcome addition to the growing bodies of scholarship re-interpreting the role of women in science, examining the relationship between science and literature, and exploring the importance of popular science.' Centauras
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- Date Published: December 2001
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521626729
- length: 280 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
- weight: 0.42kg
- contains: 1 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Perceiving what others do not perceive: the 'peculiar illumination' of the female mind
1. Head among the stars, feet firm upon the earth: the problem of categorizing Mary Somerville
2. Creating a room of her own in the world of science: how Mary Fairfax became the famous Mrs Somerville
3. Science as exact calculation and elevated meditation: Mechanism of the Heavens (1931), Preliminary Dissertation (1832), and On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834)
4. The earth, the sea, the air, and their inhabitants: Physical Geography (1848) and On Molecular and Microscopic Science (1869)
5. Personal Recollections (1973): Mary Somerville on Mary Somerville
6. Memory and Mary Somerville: in the public eye and historical memory
Epilogue: science, voice, and vision.
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