Borders scientist in running for honour

Mary Somerville, Scientist, (1780-1872), was an outstanding	 mathematician, astronomer, scientist and successful writer of	the Victorian era. She was one of the first two women elected as honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society and Somerville College, Oxford, was named after her. PIC The Wallace Monument.
Mary Somerville, Scientist, (1780-1872), was an outstanding mathematician, astronomer, scientist and successful writer of the Victorian era. She was one of the first two women elected as honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society and Somerville College, Oxford, was named after her. PIC The Wallace Monument.

Scientific pioneer Mary Somerville is in the running to become the first woman to be honoured at the the National Wallace Monument’s hall of heroes.

Somerville, born in Jedburgh in 1780, is one of 14 Scottish women shortlisted to be recognised alongside poets Walter Scott and Robert Burns, King Robert the Bruce and inventor James Watt.

Voting to decide whether Somerville should be included in the hall of heroes gallery, on the second floor of the Stirling monument, is open until Friday, March 31.

To cast a vote, go to www.
nationalwallacemonument.com/scotlands-heroines/cast-your-vote

The shortlist was selected by a panel comprising members of the Saltire Society, Women’s History Scotland, Glasgow Life and Stirling District Tourism, the charity that manages the monument.

Stirling District Tourism chairperson Zillah Jamieson said: “Over the years, visitors to the National Wallace Monument have repeatedly asked why we do not have female figures from Scotland’s past represented in the collection. 

“Our response to date has been to reference the historic and somewhat outdated nature of the selection criteria applied at that time in society.

“The time has undoubtedly come to change this, and we are excited to be adding the first female figure to the hall of heroes.

“These historic female figures have been chosen because they have shaped Scotland’s history and surprised, delighted and inspired generation after generation with their determination, fortitude and spirit – the very values that William Wallace stood for.”

Somerville, also an astronomer, is credited with having had a leading role in the discovery of Neptune, thanks to her writing on a hypothetical planet moving within the orbit of Uranus.

She became internationally renowned for her mathematical abilities as well as her comprehensible writing style no matter the complexity of the subject matter.

Set to feature on Scottish £10 banknotes coming into circulation later this year, she was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1835 and died aged 91 in 1872.

Alison McCall, convener of Women’s History Scotland, added: “It is wonderful to see an initiative such as this being implemented.

“For centuries, women have been the unsung heroes.

“This project will acknowledge the role which women have played in Scottish society and select a heroine worthy of recognition in such an important landmark.”

Other women who have been shortlisted

Dolina MacLennan, Executive Board Member at the Saltire Society said: “I am delighted that soon one of these remarkable heroines will be joining this hallowed company of men, and live in hope that many more of them will follow.”

Voting takes place online at www.nationalwallacemonument.com, or in person at the Monument, and the deadline for final entries is 31st March 2017.