Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) was an English noblewoman and scientist, poet, philosopher and playwright, one of the most accomplished women of her age. Contemporary with Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes, Cavendish’s writings have been hailed as groundbreaking. She was also the first woman to ever attend a meeting of the Royal Society of London.
Born Margaret Lucas, Cavendish came from a family that moved in royal circles. Her father, Thomas Lucas, was exiled and pardoned by King James, while her brother Charles was a noted Cavalier in the English Civil War. Margaret became a Maid of Honor to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I. Margaret accompanied the Queen into exile in France, where she met and married William Cavendish.
Margaret Cavendish returned to England, where she embarked on her writing career. Her first book was Poems and Fancies, which contained several essays on natural philosophy. Her most notable work, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, appeared in 1666, which was a rejection of Aristotelianism in favor of Stoicism. The same year she published the novel The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World, a utopian work that many consider to be the first science fiction novel in history. Margaret Cavendish also wrote numerous plays, although none were ever performed in her lifetime. In 1665 she was elevated to the title of Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.