Somerville's Booklist

Mary Somerville was acquainted with John Playfair (1748 - 1819), joint Professor of Mathematics in Edinburgh University from 1785 to 1805, with Sir John Leslie (1766 - 1832) Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh from 1805 to 1819, and with William Wallace (1786 - 1843) Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh from 1819 to 1838.

Mary seems to have first made Wallace's acquaintance when Wallace, who was an excellent teacher, taught mathematics at the Royal Military College at Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire. When teaching there, he began a mathematical journal which contained mathematical problems and puzzles. Mary submitted solutions to some of these and started a mathematical correspondence with him.

When Mary told Wallace that she wished to make a deep study of mathematics and astronomy he recommended her a small library of books. Mary bought them in 1813 when she was 33 and used and valued them till the end of her long life.

All were recent publications and many were in French. Here is a list:
Biot Analytic geometry and astronomy
CalletLogarithms
ClairautFigure of the earth
EulerAlgebra
EulerIsoperimetrical problems (in Latin)
FrancoeurPure Mathematics
FrancoeurElements of mechanics
LacroixAlgebra
LacroixDifferential and integral calculus
LacroixFinite differences and series
LagrangeTheory of analytic functions
LaplaceMécanique céleste
LaplaceAnalytical theory of probabilities
MongeApplication of analysis to geometry
PoissonTreatise on mechanics

Note by: Helen Cook


JOC/EFR August 2000

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