Margaret Cavendish

Writer on Natural Philosophy (1623 - 1673)

She was the Duchess of Newcastle. Margaret received no special scientific education as a child but nevertheless her interest in science was keen. While living in Paris in exile during the British civil war that began in 1642 she met and married William Cavendish. He was somewhat interested in mathematics and science but it was his brother, Charles, to whom Margaret turned to help develop her scientific interests. In Paris she became part of an intellectual scientific movement known as atomism.

She was interested in medicine and was known to treat herself. It is the thought that perhaps her self-doctoring led to her sudden death at age 50.

She produced no original science but was a popularizer of science and did correspond with some of the influential natural philosophers of her day. She authored The Blazing World in which the heroine makes a round trip of the Moon and planets and thus qualifies as the first fictional female space traveler. She was a colorful figure and a prolific and popular author. The diarist Samuel Pepys described her less kindly as "mad, conceited and ridiculous." She published under her own name - a radical and deliberate infringement of contemporary proprieties - a huge body of work encompassing historical treatises, essays, poems, plays, and autobiography.

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