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Leicester Special Collections

Mariette Soman (b.1889-d.1941)


Dr. Mariette Soman in her study.

Mariette Soman (married name Leon) was a fundamental player in the early years of Leicester University College, where she founded the School of German in 1933.

Educated at Cambridge and the Sorbonne in Paris, Soman’s keen intellectual mind and flair for languages was noted early on by her lecturers and was key to her success both inside and outside of academia. Her thesis, on the philosophical works of Ernest Renan demonstrates her multi-disciplinary approach to learning; her interests covering a broad spectrum, including philosophy, literature and language.

Before her work at the University, Soman worked as a translator during World War I, decoding German messages in the infamous Room 40. She was one of the first eight people in Britain to hear of the signing of the Armistice and was one of the first to know of the death of Lord Kitchener and the location of German battleships.

It was her founding of the School of German, however, that ensured Soman’s place as a pioneering woman in education. With the ‘real originality of thought’ with which her lecturers described her methods, Soman also founded the Anglo-German club, which proved very popular with students.[1]


[1] University College Leicester biographies- ULA/PER/6