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Brigitte Stenhouse

Brigitte Stenhouse next to a bust of Mary Somerville at the Royal Society, London.

Profile summary

Professional biography

I studied mathematics at Somerville College, University of Oxford where I was awarded an integrated Master of Mathematics degree in 2016 (first class). My master's dissertation considered the works of Mary Somerville (1780-1872), and how her engagament with mathematics was effected by her financial situation and gender. I then worked for a year in alumni relations and fundraising, before beginning my doctoral studies at the Open University in 2017. 

Research interests

My doctoral research is supervised by Professor June Barrow-Green, and my research interests broadly lie within: 19th century mathematics in Western Europe; circulating knowledge through translations; and the effects of gender on access to and the production of knowledge. 

More specifically my research looks at the mathematical works of Mary Somerville, including her early engagement with a mathematical community through contributions to periodicals, her 1831 'translation' of the Mecanique Celeste by Laplace, and the 1834 unpublished manuscript which is an introductory text treating the differential calculus.

Forthcoming conferences and talks:​

Teaching interests

I am currently an Associate Lecturer with the OU on M303 Further Pure Mathematics which covers: number theory; the algebraic theory of rings and fields; and metric spaces. 

I was a teaching assistant at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, from 2016-2019. I taught on the 3rd year undergraduate History of Mathematics Module, which included facilitating reading courses on the development of abstract linear algebra, and British symbolical algebra in the 19th century. In 2018 I was a tutor for SCIO, Oxford where I provided one-to-one tutorials in the history of mathematics for an undergraduate visiting student. 

Impact and engagement

Selection of talks and seminars given:

  • Claremont History and Philosophy of Mathematics Seminar, Translating Laplace's Mécanique Céleste in early 19th-century Great Britain. Online (California), November 2020. 
  • BSHM: Mathematics in Times of Crisis, Conjuring the `spirit of Laplace': Translation as an answer to mathematical crisis. Online, July 2020 (see link to the right). 
  • Oxford History of Mathematics Forum, Two letters from the Mary Somerville Collection. Online, June 2020. 
  • Novembertagung on the History and Philosophy of Mathematics, Mister Mary Somerville, Husband and Secretary. Strasbourg, France, November 2019. 
  • European Society for the History of Science Young Scholars Conference, Conjuring the ‘spirit of Laplace’: The analytical works of Mary Somerville (1780-1872). Paris, France, September 2019.
  • British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, Understanding the differential through the use of notation in Mary Somerville’s unpublished work. Cambridge, UK, April 2019.
  • Séminaire des doctorants de SPHERE: Circulation of knowledge across national, cultural, and theoretical boundaries, A novel composition: the differential as presented in Mary Somerville’s Theory of Differences. Paris, France, March 2019.
  • Seminar in the History of the Exact Sciences All Souls College, University of Oxford, Understanding the differential in Mary Somerville’s Theory of Differences. Oxford, UK, February 2019
  • Research in Progress Meeting of the BSHM (co-organizer), “Sometimes right and sometimes wrong”: The early mathematical publications of Mary Somerville. Oxford, UK, February 2019.
  • Joint Meeting of the AMS and MAA Special Session on the History of Mathematics, Understanding the differential in the unpublished work of Mary Somerville. Baltimore, MD, USA, January 2019.
  • British Mathematics Colloquium, Embracing Nature in Formulae: The Hidden Mathematics of Mary Somerville. St Andrews, UK, June 2018.

I have also presented talks and workshops centred on my research (and on 19th century differential calculus more broadly) to students in Year 7 and Year 11, as well as undergraduate students at the Open University M500 weekend.


Mary Somerville's Early Contributions to the Circulation of Differential Calculus (2020-05)
Stenhouse, Brigitte
Historia Mathematica, 51 (pp. 1-25)

Mister Mary Somerville: Husband and Secretary (2020)
Stenhouse, Brigitte
The Mathematical Intelligencer ((Early Access))