The life of Mary Somerville can aptly be described as a study in contrasts. How did Mary Fairfax, born into genteel poverty at a time when few women had access to formal education, eventually become the “Queen of Nineteenth Century Science”? This ordinary woman accomplished the extraordinary, yet a careful review of her life exposes many inconsistencies. What do these discrepancies tell us about Mary? What do they tell us about the time period in which she lived? An analysis of her life and work reveals that she was far more than an amateur scholar. This Victorian “popularizer” was, without question, a scientist.

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