Brigitte Stenhouse on BBC World Service - The Forum, Mary Somerville: The queen of 19th-Century science

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Credit: Fiona Clampin

This episode of BBC's The Forum, hosted by Bridget Kendall, looks at the life and work of 19th-century polymath Mary Somerville and features OCHSMT member Brigitte Stenhouse. Although women were barred from higher education, and memberships of the learned societies where knowledge was shared in the early 19th-Century, Somerville found alternative ways to become one of the most respected figures in maths and science of her day. Scottish-born Somerville played a crucial role in communicating the latest findings in science through a series of successful books. She regretted never making any original discoveries herself, so does her experience suggest we should re-evaluate the role of originality in science? Also featuring Jim Secord, University of Cambridge, and Ruth Boreham.


Brigitte Stenhouse is currently a post-doctoral researcher and departmental lecturer in History of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, as well as being an affiliate member of the OCHSMT. She recently completed her PhD at The Open University, where her research focused on the mathematical work of Mary Somerville. Her thesis situates Somerville's work within the wider movement to circulate French mathematics in Britain in the early 19th-century, and investigates how gender affected both Somerville's access to knowledge and the types of publications she chose to write. Stenhouse is currently looking at collaborative couples in mathematics in order to understand the roles of gender and domesticity in the making of mathematical careers.


Listen to the episode here

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