Jane Marcet

Jane Marcet (née Haldimand) (1 January 1769 – 28 June 1858)

Jane wrote and illustrated popular science books, ‘Conversations’, that were both accessible and scientifically accurate.

One of twelve children born to a Swiss banker in London, she was educated with her brothers and, after her mother died, took over the running of the household and her father’s scientific and literary soirées from the age of fifteen .

She published Conversations on Chemistry anonymously in 1803.

Jane married a doctor and they set up a chemical laboratory at their home in London.

They had four children.

Conversations on Chemistry, based on Humphry Davy’s public lectures, had a profound effect on Michael Faraday who went on to discover the underlying principles of electromagnetism and electrolysis.

Mentors matter.

While working shifts at SAI, I had a lot of free time.

I volunteered at the Edinburgh Deaf Club on Albany Street and met Pat McLaughlin who had decided, on retiring from a lifetime of hard manual work, that it was time to learn how to read and write. I was assigned to help, but learned a great deal more from Pat than he ever learned from me.

Pat and his wife Monica, both profoundly deaf from birth, had attended a school which forbade the use of sign language, a cruelty that is almost unimaginable today.

I had never fully appreciated how isolating it is to be deaf and deprived of your natural language.

Phosphate Rocks: A Death in Ten Objects is published by Sandstone Press £8.99 and is available from all good bookshops and online here.