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The duchess who gatecrashed science

Naomi Alderman looks at how Margaret Cavendish got entangled in the birth of the scientific method.

In the spring of 1667 Samuel Pepys queued repeatedly with crowds of Londoners and waited for hours just to catch a glimpse of aristocrat writer and thinker Margaret Cavendish.

Twice he was frustrated and couldn't spot her, but eventually she made a grand visit to meet the Fellows of the newly formed Royal Society. She was the first woman ever to visit.

Pepys watched as they received her with gritted teeth and fake smiles.

They politely showed her air pumps, magnets and microscopes, and she politely professed her amazement, then left in her grand carriage.

Naomi Alderman asks what it was it about this celebrity poet, playwright, author, and thinker that so fascinated and yet also infuriated these men of the Restoration elite?

Part of the answer strikes right at the core of what we now call the scientific method.

Producer: Alex Mansfield

Available now

28 minutes


  • Wed 27 Jan 2016 21:00
  • Tue 8 Sep 2020 21:00
  • Wed 9 Sep 2020 15:30