Groundbreaking Women of Science

Historic England

This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive and Google Street View celebrates the contributions made to science by nine remarkable women, through the places where they lived, worked, studied and discovered.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), 12 St James's Square, Westminster, London

Born Augusta Byron, Ada was the daughter of poet Lord Byron. Following the break up of her parents' marriage, Ada was brought up by her mother, Anne.

Ada was tutored in mathematics and science, and at age seventeen was introduced to the mathematician Charles Babbage. She became fascinated with his first mechanical calculator, the difference engine, and his ideas for an Analytical Engine.

Ada's writings include what is considered to be one of the earliest computer programs, and she saw the potential for using punched card technology in the analytical engine.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), 12 St James's Square, Westminster, London

Ada, Countess of Lovelace, lived at 12 St James's Square, a terraced town house that was built in 1836. It has subsequently been converted into offices.

In 1979 a United States government computer software language was named ‘Ada’ in her honour. A blue plaque was erected at her home, 12 St James's Square, London, in 1993, commemorating her as a 'pioneer of computing'.

12 St James's Square is Listed Grade II

Mary Anning (1799–1847), Parish Church of St Michael, Lyme Regis, Dorset

Mary Anning was a fossil collector, fossil dealer, and palaeontologist who became known around the world for discovering important Jurassic marine fossils.

Mary was born in the seaside town of Lyme Regis. Her reputation grew in the 1820s and 1830s, and she became known to the scientific community and general public.

Mary died in 1847 and was buried in the churchyard of Lyme's parish church. A window commemorating her was installed in the church in 1850.

The Parish Church of St Michael is Listed Grade I

Mary Anning (1799–1847)
Lyme Regis, Dorset

Much of Mary Anning's fossil finds were made in the cliffs and on the beach at Lyme Regis. It was here that her father took her and her brother Joseph fossil hunting as children.

In 1811 and 1812 they discovered the fossil of what was to become known as Ichthyosaurus. This and the sale of other finds gave much-needed income to the family following their father's death in 1810.

Mary's successes drew visitors to the town during the 19th century, and the exposed specimens still fascinate visitors today.

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994), Somerville College, Oxford

As a young girl, Dorothy Hodgkin developed a passion for crystals and chemistry, even creating a laboratory in the attic of her home in Norfolk.

In 1928, Margaret entered Somerville College in Oxford to read Chemistry. She graduated with first-class honours and went to Cambridge as a research student at the crystallography laboratory. She returned to Somerville and set up her own X-ray facility.

Margaret's notable work included investigating the structure of penicillin and solving the structure of vitamin B12.

In 1964 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry, only the fifth woman to have won any scientific Nobel Prize.

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)
Somerville College, Oxford

Somerville Hall (later College) was founded in 1879 as a non-denominational women's college. It was named in honour of the mathematician and science writer Mary Somerville.

Several of the college's buildings are listed for the special architectural or historical significance, including: Walton House, Library, West Building, Wolfson Building and Hall and Maitland Block.

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), Bolton Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea, London

Better known for her stories for children, Beatrix Potter was fascinated by natural science and publically challenged an established theory on fungi.

This photograph was taken from Beatrix's birthplace and childhood home, 2 Bolton Gardens in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The photographer was possibly her father, Rupert, a lawyer and amateur artist.

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), Bolton Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea, London

Beatrix was fascinated by the natural world from an early age, including the study of fungi, which she painted and recorded, and experimented in germination. In 1897 she submitted a paper On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae to the Linnaean Society - now the world's oldest currently active biological society.

Beatrix Potter's family home was one of eight semi-detached villas built in the 1860s on the site of a nursery and florists. Six of the houses, including the Potter's former home, were demolished in the 1950s to make way for Bousfield Primary School.

Caroline Herschel (1750-1848),
19 New King Street, Bath

Caroline Herschel was born in Hanover in 1750. In 1772 she moved to live in England with her musician brother William, who had settled in Bath some years earlier.

Caroline embarked on a singing career while her brother began to dedicate himself to astronomy, turning their home into a workshop and foundry.

Caroline sacrificed her career to assist William in Bath and later in London, and began to make her own discoveries. She attained respectability in the field and was awarded a royal pension. The diarist, Fanny Burney, described her as 'the celebrated comet-searcher'.

Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)
19 New King Street, Bath

The Herschels' home in Bath was one of a pair of terrace houses that were built in 1764-70. Caroline's brother William began living here in 1777, and it was from the garden that he discovered the planet Uranus in March 1781.

The house opened as the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in 1981.

18 and 19 New King Street is Listed Grade II*

Mary Somerville (1780-1872),
Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London

Born Mary Fairfax, as a child in Scotland, Mary Somerville studied mathematics in secret (her father forbade it), and continued to do so after she had married and moved to London.

Her second husband, William Somerville, encouraged her studies in mathematics and science, and she published her first scientific paper in 1826. Her work on educational books and publications on physical science and geography, including On the Connection of the Physical Sciences (1834), gained her significant recognition.

In 1869 Mary was awarded the patron's gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society, and Somerville College, Oxford was named in her honour.

When she died in 1872, Mary was hailed by The London Post as 'The Queen of Nineteenth-Century Science'.

Mary Somerville (1780-1872),
Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London

Mary Somerville was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel.

The Astronomical Society of London was formed in 1820 for the promotion of astronomy. Meetings were held in a number of venues until 1874 when the Society moved to purpose-built premises at Burlington House.

The new ranges at Burlington House were designed by Banks & Barry and built between 1868 and 1873. Within them was accommodation for the Learned Societies - the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Geological Society, the Royal Society, the Linnaean Society, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Society of Antiquaries.

The Learned Societies building is Listed Grade II*

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917), Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, Euston Road, Camden, London

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the sister of suffrage leader Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and mother of fellow medical pioneer and militant suffragette, Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson.

Inspired by Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, the only woman to be included in the General Medical Council's register, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson took up the cause to promote women in the medical profession.

Despite encountering prejudices, in 1865 Elizabeth received the licence of the Society of Apothecaries and became the first woman qualified in Britain to enter the medical register. She was also the first woman to gain a MD degree from the University of Paris.

In 1872 Elizabeth founded the New Hospital for Women in London, staffed entirely by women and later renamed Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917), Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, Euston Road, Camden, London

Opening in 1890 as the New Hospital for Women, it was the first purpose-built hospital for the treatment of women by women doctors.

Designed by the architect John McKean Brydon, it functioned as a teaching hospital and was also provided accommodation for the Women's Medical Institute. The ward designs were influenced by Florence Nightingale.

The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital is Listed Grade II

Marie Stopes (1880–1958)
Victoria University of Manchester

Marie Stopes' mother was a promoter of women's education. Marie duly excelled in her own education, obtaining a science degree from University College, London, and became the first woman to gain a PhD in botany from the Botanical Institute in Munich, Germany.

In 1904 she was appointed the first woman assistant lecturer in botany at Manchester University, and the following year became the youngest doctor of science in Britain.

A supporter of women's suffrage, Marie joined the Women's Freedom League. She began writing on marriage and birth control, and in 1921 she and her second husband established a birth control clinic in north London.

Marie Stopes (1880–1958)
Victoria University of Manchester

The Victoria University of Manchester (now the University of Manchester) was established in name in 1903. It evolved from Owens College, which was founded in 1851, and which had incorporated the Royal School of Medicine and Surgery in 1872.

In the 1870s the college developed new accommodation off Oxford Road. The buildings that make up the Old Quadrangle were designed by Alfred Waterhouse, architect of Manchester Town Hall.

The Beyer Building, which opened in 1887, housed geology, zoology and botany. Marie Stopes worked here from 1904 when she was appointed assistant lecturer in botany.

Waterhouse's Victoria University of Manchester buildings are Listed Grade II*

Annie Maunder (1868–1947)
Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London

Annie Maunder studied at Girton College, Cambridge and obtained a post at the Royal Observatory in 1891, in a role described as 'lady computer' or 'supernumerary computer'. This meant that she was employed on a short-term basis on a low wage.

Her marriage to Edward Maunder, her supervisor in the Solar Department, meant that she had to leave her post. Continuing to work voluntarily, she developed her skills, especially in the use of photoheliographs - instruments for photographing the sun.

Annie and Edward often published the results of their work jointly, but in the introduction to The Heavens and their Story (1910), Edward wrote that it was 'almost wholly the work of my wife'.

Annie Maunder (1868–1947)
Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London

The Royal Observatory, Britain's first state-funded scientific institution, was founded in 1675. The site selected for it was the ruined Greenwich Castle, sited on high ground in a royal park.

Since 1884, the Royal Observatory has been the source of the Prime Meridian of the world, dividing the eastern and western hemispheres of planet Earth.

Several buildings at the Royal Observatory are listed for their architectural and historical significance, including: Flamsteed House, Transit House, Former Great Equatorial Building, Altazimuth Building and South Building.

HerStories

To commemorate the centenary of women winning the vote, Historic England will research, highlight and list places that played a part in the struggle for suffrage and subsequent gender equality.

Do you, or does someone in your family or area, have a hidden suffrage story? If you do, we’d love to hear it.


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Discover more about how Historic England has celebrated Groundbreaking Women of Science and take a look at our Women of Science map.

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