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Mary Morland exemplifies the limited possibilities of a woman of her time to make a career in scientific research. She was born in Marcham in 1797, daughter of the Abingdon lawyer Benjamin Morland. George Bowes Morland, also a lawyer and one of the important figures in the development of Abingdon’s brewing industry, was a half-brother. Her mother died when she was a baby, and she seems to have been entrusted for part of her childhood to Sir Christopher Pegge, Regius Professor of Anatomy in Oxford, and his wife, who encouraged her early scientific interests.

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