Our next meeting – on Tuesday 17th May – will be the last evening meeting of the Society’s current year.
Throughout the year we have been considering the theme of Prominent Women. Our last meeting looks at a woman who was a famous scientist to her contemporaries but who has since rather fallen from the even the well-informed general public’s view.
Dr Allan Chapman is the man who will right this wrong. A long-term member of Oxford University’s History Faculty and Wadham College, he is probably best known for his interest in the history of astronomy. In fact, in 2015 the Royal Astronomical Society awarded the Jackson-Gwilt Medal to an historian for the first time, to Dr Chapman. He is the current Hon President of the
Society for the History of Astronomy
Members may well have enjoyed the 2003 Channel 4 programme Gods in the Sky which he presented. “Using puppets, dancers, Christmas tree lights and Sir Patrick Moore dressed as various ancient gods, Professor Allan Chapman [expounded] politically incorrect big ideas about religion and astronomy” (If you missed it, it is available on demand!)
Dr Chapman research encompasses biographies of astronomers and scientists of previous centuries.
Consequently, he is just the man to tell us all about Mary Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872)
Oxford Somerville’s College was founded just 9 years after her death – it is not surprising that she was still known and respected in the circle of educated blue stockings. It seems that she is now coming back into the ranks of extraordinary achievers … first with a brief appearance (played by Lesley Manville) in the 2014 film Mr Turner (though I for one had to have the significance of her appearance pointed out to me afterwards) – and with the announcement that she will be the new face of RBS £10 note