TOPIC 2: WOMEN IN MATHEMATICS
Books relating to the history of mathematics have been considered to be of male domain (Baxter 2008, p13) with many women’s contributions to the development in such a profession unvalued and unavowed (Paraphrased Baxter 2008 p13). The purpose of this essay is to discuss the factors in which contributed to both Grace Chisholm Young and Mary Fairfax Somerville’s successes in the field of mathematics; to education; to their own and future societies as well as other academic accomplishments made throughout their lives despite society’s unacceptableness of their gender in such a profession.
Mary Fairfax Somerville was born Dec 26th 1780 in Jed Burgh and raised in Burnt Island, Scotland. In spite of the family’s felicitous economic positioning, “Osen (1975, p.97) states that Mary’s education had been a rather desultory one, mostly self directed, quite haphazard and scant”. Wood (1997 p.1) cites Osen in saying it was viewed upon unnecessary to educate females compared to the opportunities in which males were given, thus she only attended for a year Miss Primrose's boarding school for girls in Musselburgh.
Somerville’s contributions to mathematics were incited during her childhood, and the age of thirteen she was introduced to basic mathematics and her study of algebra; as by accident she stumbled across an article within a woman's magazine. Somerville was able to convince her brother's tutor to acquire information on the subject on her behalf as it was of non-standard for females to do so in such society (paraphrased wood 1997 p.1).This initiated Somerville’s interest in mathematics, and this became the start of many future academic successes throughout her life.
Somerville married Samuel Greig in 1804, Mary stated her husband “had a very low opinion of the capacity of my sex, and had neither knowledge of, or interest in science of any kind” (Martha Somerville, 1873), Greig never interfered with her... [continues]
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