Monday 11th March 2024 to Sunday 17th March 2024


11 – 16 March, Online Event



To mark British Science Week 2024 (8-17 March), we are taking a look at some of the women scientists in our collection. Many pioneering women in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries made inroads in botany, geology, mathematics, astronomy, palaeontology, and other disciplines, both disseminating scientific knowledge to others, but also making extraordinary discoveries against considerable odds. Each day from Monday to Saturday, we will be releasing a short video about one of these women. Purchasing a ticket gives you access to the entire series.



Monday 11: Introduction: Science and the Chawton House Collection 


Tuesday 12: Mary Somerville (Brigitte Stenhouse) 

Mary Somerville was a Scottish mathematician and astronomer. She was the first woman to have an experimental paper printed in the Royal Society’s periodical, and also the first female Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society (along with Caroline Hershel). 

Dr Brigitte Stenhouse is a Lecturer in History of Mathematics at the Open University. Her research investigates how mathematicians created and utilised communities and social networks in the building of their careers, through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She has specifically looked at the role of marriage in the forging of mathematical communities, and on the life and work of Scottish polymath and science writer Mary Somerville (1780-1872). Find out more: Brigitte Stenhouse.


Wednesday 13: Jane Squire (Tita Chico) 

Jane Squire is a now-forgotten mathematician. She is the only woman known to have openly competed for the British longitude reward offered as part of the 1714 Longitude Act. 

Tita Chico is Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Center for Literary and Comparative Studies at the University of Maryland (US). She is the author of The Experimental Imagination: Literary Knowledge and Science in the British Enlightenment (Stanford University Press, 2018), and currently writing about wonder 

Thursday 14: Elizabeth Blackwell (Katie Childs) 

Elizabeth Blackwell was a talented and pioneering botanical illustrator. Her Curious Herbal (1737-39) was created to secure her husband’s release from debtor’s prison. It contains 500 hand-etched and coloured plates of plants, accompanied by a short biography for each specimen, explaining in simple terms where the plant grew, its characteristics, name and uses. 

Katie Childs is the Chief Executive of Chawton House. She curated an exhibition on Botanical Women (2021-22), and is also undertaking research on the way that the Knight family women at Chawton House influenced the development of the Gardens. 


Friday 15: Charlotte Jane St Maur (Kim Simpson) 

Charlotte (1803-1889) was the daughter of Edward Adolphus St Maur, 11th Duke of Somerset and Lady Charlotte Hamilton. The Chawton House Collection includes a cache of 16 letters from her to her father and uncle. Her father had a lifelong interest in mathematics, whilst her Uncle, Lord Webb, was interested in geology. The two men, both Fellows of the Royal Society, took a keen interest in Charlotte’s education, particularly in relation to science. 

Dr Kim Simpson is the Deputy Director of Chawton House, and included Charlotte’s letters in an exhibition on letter-writing (Quills and Characters, 2023). 


Saturday 16: Maria Graham (Carl Thompson and Emma Yandle) 

Maria Graham was one of the leading travel writers of her time. She published books on India, Italy, Chile and Brazil, as well as art history, science, history, botany, and children’s literature, establishing herself as an authoritative expert in several fields. Her account of an earthquake in Chile was the first female- authored piece to appear in the journal of the Geological Society. 

Dr Carl Thompson is a Reader in English Literature at the University of Surrey. He has published widely on travel writing of the 18th and 19th century, with a particular focus on women travel writers. He is currently working on a monograph on Maria Graham for Oxford University Press and has published widely on Graham’s scientific activities. 

Emma Yandle is the Curator and Collections Manager at Chawton House. She curated the exhibition Trailblazers: Women Travel Writers and the Exchange of Knowledge (September 2022 – February 2023) at Chawton House, with a digital programme that highlighted women working in the sciences, both in the 18th century and today.  


Tickets: £10. Ticket holders will be emailed a link to access the video landing page. 

These videos are pre-recorded, and will be available to watch until the end of 2024. 

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