Born in Jedburgh, the daughter of a naval officer, Mary Fairfax received the education then thought fitting for young ladies - very little, and a lot of needlework. She taught herself algebra in secret and became one of the period's leading mathematicians. She wrote several influential books on mathematics and astronomy. Somerville College, in Oxford, is named in her honour.This portrait was made during a visit to Paris in 1833. Although the medallion was very popular with the scientific community, some thought it too hard-edged and unfeminine.