‘Mechanism of the Heavens’

Mary Somerville by Thomas Phillips
Mary Somerville by Thomas Phillips – Licence: Public Domain

Before I started on my illustration of Mary Somerville for Ada Lovelace Day 2017 I wanted to know something more about her. I had heard her name in association with Ada Lovelace, but knew very little of her own significant achievements and contributions.

Mary Fairfax Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872) was a Scottish science writer and polymath. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel.

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

Extract taken from Wikipedia.

Her Wikipedia biography gave me several ideas for the illustration. I used the Thomas Phillips oil painting as my starting point. Although it is difficult to see the detail there is certainly enough to base an illustration on. For the background I wanted to go with astronomy, for me it is the most visually exciting component. The planets and stars in the background are all based on NASA photographs, again all Public Domain images. The materials I used included hot pressed (HP) watercolour paper for its smooth surface and the pens were Unipin Fineline sizes 0.1 and 0.3 mm.

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Mary Somerville illustrationDownload artwork

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‘Mechanism of the Heavens’ by Jackie Aim. © 2017 The University of Edinburgh. Some rights reserved.

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N.B. This is a Free Culture Licence.