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Discovery

299 EpisodesProduced by BBC World ServiceWebsite

Explorations in the world of science.

27:33

Science Stories - Mary Somerville, pioneer of popular science writing

Mary Somerville was a self-taught genius who wrote best-selling books translating, explaining and drawing together different scientific fields and who was named the nineteenth century's "queen of science". Born Mary Fairfax in 1780, she was an unlikely scientific hero. Her parents and her first husband did not support her scientific pursuits and it was only when she became a widow at 28 with two small children that she began to do novel mathematics. With her second husband, William Somerville, she entered the intellectual life of the times in Edinburgh and London and met all the great scientific thinkers.

Naomi Alderman tells the story of Mary Somerville's long life - she lived till she was 92. She discusses how Mary came to be a writer about science with her biographer, Professor Kathryn Neeley of the University of Virginia, and the state of popular science writing books with writer Jon Turney.

Main Image: Mary Fairfax, Mrs William Somerville, 1780 - 1872. Writer on science, by Thomas Phillips, 1834. Oil on canvas. (Photo by National Galleries Of Scotland / Getty Images)

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