Friday 1st March 2024 From Algebra to the Secrets of the Universe: the Fascinating life of Mary Somerville

Elisabetta Strickland

Friday 1st March 2024 7.30 pm in the BRLSI, can be attended either in the BRLSI or remotely on Zoom

Part of a BRLSI series of events around International Women’s Day to celebrate Extraordinary Women.

The image is at Somerville College, the artist is James Rannie Swinton (1844).
Photo credit: Somerville College, University of Oxford (CC BY-NC).

It is an astonishing experience to go back in time and explore the world where study and research for women were forbidden by law. The fascinating life of the Scottish scientist and popular writer Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872) brings us back in this past and, in the same time, describes the fight of one great dame for equal rights and opportunities for women. Her fight was not political, in a sense that she did not try to influence the public opinion with her words or her actions, but by winning the respect of the scientific world. Her extraordinary mathematical talent only came to light through fortuitous circumstances. Barely taught to read and write as a child, all the science she learned and mastered was self taught. By giving this example of scientific competence, she backed the struggle towards education opportunities for women that lead to their access to schools. The Somerville College in Oxford was named in her honor in 1879 and produced famous graduates like Dorothy Hodgkin, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher.

Elisabetta STRICKLAND is honorary professor at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. She has been Vice-President of the National Institute of Advanced Mathematics (INdAM) from 2007 to 2015. From 2014 to 2022 she has been a member of the Women in Mathematics Committee (WIM) of the European Mathematical Society. She is Honorary President of the Central Committee for the promotion of equal opportunities, workers’ welfare and non discrimination (CUG) of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. She is also co-founder of the Gender Interuniversity Observatory GIO over the state Universities in Rome. Since 2016 she is Ambassador of Italy in the Committee of Women in Mathematics (CWM) of the International Mathematical Union.

In 2013 she has been awarded from the Capitoline Administration the Prize “Excellent Women in Rome”.

A recording will be available in April 2024.

Please note that you can also buy tickets for the whole BRLSI Extraordinary Women programme through the above link. A list of all the talks with links to more information can be found here.