London: W. Nicol...Printers to the Royal Society, February 2, 1826. First edition. In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London for the year 1826 (Volume II), pages 132-139. Bound together with Volume I in three quarter morocco over marbled boards. Titles present for both parts, with stamp of Library of Royal College of Surgeons Ireland to first title; Advertisements and Contents present for Volume II. A tall, clean, wide margined copy with pages measuring 203 x 280mm. This publication by one of the period's most influential female scientists is incredibly scarce. The only copy on the market, OCLC reports 5 at institutions worldwide with only one of those being in the U.S.
Mary Somerville was one of the most influential science writers of her time, and the present is her first ever published work. "Perhaps no woman of science until Marie Curie was as widely recognized in her own time...not only did [Somerville's works] bring scientific knowledge in a broad range of fields to a wide audience, but thanks to her exceptional talents for analysis, organization, and presentation, they provided definition and shape for an impressive spread of scientific work" (ODNB). Educated from childhood by her mother and then in boarding school, it was not until Mary's marriage to William Somerville that she was fully encouraged to embrace her curiosity and immerse herself in science and mathematics. Traveling in circles that included intellectual luminaries Charles Babbage, Pierre Simon Laplace, and Sir William and Caroline Herschel, Somerville would become, alongside Caroline Herschel, one of the first two women to gain membership to the Royal Society. This work from a decade earlier, however, already showed the signs of her brilliance. Her understanding of the complex operations of the solar system as they applied to earth -- presented in 1825 by her husband on her behalf, as no woman had yet read to the Royal Society -- earned her great praise from Laplace and Herschel. Because of this, she was tapped "by Lord Brougham to translate for the Society the Mecanique Celeste of Laplace...its publication in 1831 under the title of The Mechanism of the Heavens at once made her famous" (Scientific Women). Scarce and important, the present work also a testament to Mary's partnership with her husband; though William is recorded as the person to share the piece with the Society, Mary's name is present as the author, positioning her within these Transactions among luminaries that include Michael Farraday and William Herschel.
Ogilvie 245. Feminist Companion 1006. Fine (Item #2835)