New plaques planned to honour city’s great and good

Mary Somerville. Picture: Contributed.
Mary Somerville. Picture: Contributed.
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SCOTLAND’S 19th century “Queen of Science”, Mary Somerville, is to be commemorated with a plaque on her former home in Edinburgh.

The mathematician, astronomer, mineralogist and writer became famous around the world, and has an island, the first women’s college at Oxford and even a crater on the moon named after her.

Sir Ernest Shackleton. Picture: PA

Sir Ernest Shackleton. Picture: PA

Somerville, who died in Italy in 1872, will be honoured with a plaque mounted at 53 
Northumberland St.

She is one of a dozen figures honoured in the latest round of Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) Commemorative Plaque Scheme – eight of which will be mounted in and around Edinburgh.

The scheme, which is now in its fifth year, celebrates the life and work of significant people from history by highlighting the link between them and a building connected with their work or life.

Other Capital figures celebrated this year include Polar explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton at 14 South Learmonth Gardens; Nobel Prize winning physicist Charles Glover Barkla at Hermitage of Braid Nature Reserve, Braid Road; sculptor Phyllis Mary Bone in Belford Mews, Dean Village; novelist Mary Burton at The Manse, 1 Greyfriars; lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson at 1-3 Baxter’s Place; writer Christian Isobel Johnstone at 2 Walker Street; and golfing pioneer Willie Park Snr at 23 Ravensheugh Road, in Musselburgh.

Physicist Charles Barkla. Picture: Contributed

Physicist Charles Barkla. Picture: Contributed

Four other plaques – for the artist Joan Eardley (Catterline, Aberdeenshire), cancer pioneer Colonel Sir George Thomas Beatson, architectural ironwork pioneer Walter Macfarlane and “Barras Queen” Maggie McIver (all Glasgow) – will be mounted outside of the Capital.

Martin Ross, HES’s Policy and Projects Manager, said: “By running this scheme, we are placing a spotlight on the social and human stories behind Scotland’s local and national architecture and the different contributions of those who helped to shape Scotland’s story.

“This latest group of recipients highlights this diversity and ranges from explorers and writers to mathematicians and golfers.

“We hope that by recognising them in this way it encourages people to find out more about their role in Scotland’s varied and extensive history.”

Somerville, who was born in Jedburgh, in the Scottish Borders, spent her childhood in Burntisland, Fife, before attending boarding school in Musselburgh. She later lived in Edinburgh.

She was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1835. Somerville College, Oxford, was named after Somerville.

One of the Committee Rooms of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh has been named after her, as is the Somerville Crater on the 

Somerville also won a public vote to become the face of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s new £10 notes.