“Papa bought me a magic bowl! It can make water dance. It has dragons on. Look, Mama!” I was six. The bowl held me enthralled - far more enthralled than the return of my father from his voyage. He showed me on the atlas where he had been, drew little pictures of the ship in which he had travelled. But I wanted to know how the bowl worked, where its magic came from. “From China,” my father replied, indicating the embroidered silk he had bought my mother, complete with strange-looking people on it. I kept the bowl, and my childish wish to understand its magic grew over the years. As an only child, I benefited unusually from the education a brother would have had. But my father rued the instruction in natural philosophy I received. It encouraged my fascination with how the world worked - and the apparent magic behind my bowl. I was not a beautiful girl, nor sociable, and combined with long hours in libraries and laboratories, my father worried that I would become unmarriageable.