skip to content
A man in a suit speaks at a lecturn

Dr Peter Wothers gave a fascinating talk on pioneering science writer Jane Marcet at our annual alumni lecture on 11 February,

Marcet’s most well-known work is Conversations on Chemistry, Intended More Especially for the Female Sex which was first published anonymously in 1805. Peter led viewers through some highlights of this early science textbook, including Marcet’s correspondence with Michael Faraday, who thought very highly of her scientific abilities. Peter showed how the book needed to be updated in a series of later editions, as more elements were discovered or renamed.

Peter also referred to his interest in collecting rare and historic science texts, many of which were on display in the McGrath Centre at St Catherine’s College, where the lecture was held. After the lecture, guests were able to view the collection, which included a copy of Marie Curie’s signed thesis, a rare letter written by Humphry Davy, alchemical books, and an artwork representing the periodic table of electron orbitals which Peter designed with colleague George Trenins, a former student in theoretical chemistry here at St Catharine’s.

Former Head of Department and Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Professor John Pyle, introduced Peter, who completed both his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at St Catharine’s. The event also celebrated the UN International Day for Women and Girls in Science, which celebrates and promotes equal access and participation in science for women and girls. Jane Marcet was one of the early women scientists who helped make this possible.

Watch the lecture on the Chemistry YouTube channel.