London: John Murray, 1836. Third edition, revised by Somerville to “incorporate the most recent research findings” since the publication of the first two editions in 1834 and 1835, respectively (Oxford DNB). One such finding was Somerville’s hypothesis that unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus may point to the existence of an undiscovered planet. This hypothesis was later confirmed by Alexis Bouvard, John Couch Adams, and Urbain Le Verrier, leading to the discovery of Neptune in 1846. With five astronomical black-and-white plates (including frontispiece). Also with astronomical diagrams and illustrations on over forty pages (in index). Both previous editions do not include plates, and the present edition has four times the number of illustrations as the first. Dedicated to Queen Adelaide. Spine sunned. Fabric creased along lower board. Edges untrimmed. Yellow coated endpapers. Contemporary ink signature to front flyleaf and nineteenth century bookplate to front pastedown. A very good, tight, and fresh copy of an influential work by one of the first two woman members of the Royal Astronomical Society. Publisher’s blindstamped dark brown cloth with gilt title. Octavo. xv, 475 pp. Item #16924
Mary Somerville (1780 - 1872) consulted with leading scientists including Brougham, Faraday, Lyell, Whewell, Ampère, and Becquerel in the writing of the present work. It was “an up-to-date account of what would later be classed as astronomy and traditional physics, with…sections on meteorology and physical geography…Supplemented with concise introductions to the technical material, it presented all in straightforward prose backed by mathematical notes. It was immensely popular…Soon an established scientific classic and best-seller, it functioned for a time as an annual progress report for physical science,” (Oxford DNB).
Perhaps no woman of science until Marie Curie was as widely recognized in her own time” as Mary Somerville, a science writer, mathematics expositor, and one of the first two women to become a member of the Royal Astronomical Society (Oxford DNB). Her other works include an extremely popular translation of Pierre-Simon Laplace, as well as The Mechanism of the Heavens (1831), which was adopted by Cambridge as an advanced mathematics textbook in 1837. She was also the author of Physical Geography (1851), which was the first English-language geography textbook and required reading in many university courses.