Credit: © The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.11063

    Sculpture bust of Mary Somerville

    Mary Somerville (1780 - 1872, British) , Science writer
    Francis Legatt Chantrey (1781 - 1841, British) , Sculptor
    Object type
    Archive reference number
    height (sculpture): 707mm
    width (sculpture): 500mm
    depth (sculpture): 290mm
    Bust of Mary Somerville on a round marble socle. Somerville is shown in a wide collared dress with a medallion or brooch. Her hair is worn up and styled in ringlets at either side.

    Inscribed on the back ‘SIR F CHANTREY, SC:1840’.

    Mary Somerville (1780-1872), British polymath and academic writer, famous for her English translation of Laplace’s Mécanique céleste under the title The Mechanism of the Heavens, was not a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her paper on the magnetic properties of the solar system, 'On the magnetizing power of the more refrangible solar rays', was published in the Society's Philosophical Transactions in 1826.
    Object history
    Presented by HRH The Duke of Sussex, and other subscribers, 1842.

    Notice of the gift appears in the Society’s Council Minutes: “The Treasurer communicated to the Council that he was honoured by the command of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, to present to the Society, in his name, and in the that of the subscribers to a fund collected for that object, a bust of Mrs. Somerville by the late Sir Francis Chantrey.” [Royal Society Council Minutes, Printed, CMP/1, 1832-1846, meeting of 10 March 1842, p.370].

    A list of subscribers to the bust exists amongst Somerville papers at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The cost of the sculpture was £200. A total of £126.4s.0d. was ledged by donors and £156.4s.0d collected. Sir Francis Chantrey indicated that he would donate any needed sum. [‘List of subscribers to the bust of Mrs. Mary Somerville…February 1832.’ Transcribed by Elizabeth C. Patterson [from Somerville Papers at the Bodleian Library?] Typescript, Royal Society Tracts X528/135].

    The Royal Society holds a sculpture bust of Mary Somerville’s son, Woronzow Greig FRS (1805-1865).
    Associated place
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