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In a change to the planned topic, Ruth Boreham will tell us about Mary Somerville and Alan Pickup will tell us about Scotland’s Sky in May 2024.

Mary Somerville (1780-1872), author of five books covering topics such as mathematics, astronomy, geology, chemistry and physics, was truly a polymath and the first person to be called ‘scientist’ in print. She is often portrayed as having received little education but in this talk Ruth will show how we need to think differently about what we mean by education and how Mary’s thirst for knowledge never stopped. Even the skills she learnt as a young lady in order to attract a husband helped shape her work.

Ruth currently works for the Scottish Book Trust on their Early Years programme called Bookbug, but also freelance as a tour guide (particularly on women’s history walking tours in Edinburgh), speaker and historical researcher. Ruth has previously worked for the National Library of Scotland as their John Murray Archive Project Curator, and has also done historical research for authors and TV programmes such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. Women’s history is her real passion and (when time and funding allows) she is currently researching and writing a biography about Mary Somerville, and also researching the Scottish 1911 census and the suffrage movement.