Mary Somerville was an astronomer, a mathematician, and a gifted writer. She carried out research into light and magnetism, pioneered new applications of mathematics to astronomy, and wrote textbooks and popular science books that achieved great success. She did all this despite being mainly self-taught, at a time when education for women was not encouraged.
She was born in Jedburgh in 1780, the daughter of a Vice-Admiral, she spent her early years in Burntisland, Fife, and went on to become recognised as one of the most remarkable people of the 19th century. Cartographer Ian Archibald, Convenor of Burntisland Heritage Trust, tells her story.
The film of this event was only available for the period of the Festival, but we will be looking further at the life of the remarkable Mary Somerville in a future year. Meanwhile she is one of five people from the Borders who were featured in this Festival presentation from last year. Named after a piece of music by the composer Edward McGuire which rounded it off, and including two further pieces by him for trumpet, Five Stars in Auriga told the story of five people whose lives were woven together by astronomy and landscape. Mary Somerville is described at 12:15 in from the start, and the others featured are the writer Sir Walter Scott, the telescope-maker James Veitch, the scholar Michael Scot and the writer John Buchan.