“Perseverance and intelligence, but no genius”: Mary Somerville's theory of differences
In 1873 the Personal Recollections from Early Life to Old Age of Mary Somerville were published, containing detailed descriptions of her life as a 19th century philosopher, mathematician and advocate of women’s rights. In an early draft of this work, Somerville reiterated the widely held view that a fundamental difference between men and women was the latter’s lack of originality, or ‘genius’.

In my talk I will examine how Somerville’s view was influenced by the historic treatment of women, both within scientific research, scientific institutions and wider society. By building on my doctoral research I will also suggest an alternative viewpoint in which her work in the differential calculus can be seen as original, with a focus on her 1834 treatise On the Theory of Differences.
Date: 8 May 2018, 16:00 (Tuesday, 3rd week, Trinity 2018)
Venue: Mathematical Institute, Woodstock Road OX2 6GG
Venue Details: Lecture room L3
Speaker: Brigitte Stenhouse (The Open University)
Organising department: Mathematical Institute
Organiser: Christopher Hollings (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address: christopher.hollings@maths.ox.ac.uk
Host: Christopher Hollings (University of Oxford)
Part of: What do historians of mathematics do?
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Public
Editor: Christopher Hollings