Maria Sibylla Me­rian: Artist, Sci­en­tist & Ad­ven­turer

S. B. Pomeroy & J. Kathirithamby

Timeless Travels Magazine - - INTREPID TRAVELLER -

Getty Pub­li­ca­tions Pub­lished: Fe­bru­ary 2018 Price: £16.95

Sci­ence and art come to­gether bril­liantly in this clear, hand­somely il­lus­trated ac­count of the life of 17th-cen­tury artist and nat­u­ral­ist Maria Sibylla Me­rian (1647–1717), one of the world’s first en­to­mol­o­gists, who voy­aged from Europe to the rain­forests of Suri­name in South Amer­ica in search of new in­sects to study and paint in their nat­u­ral habi­tats.

Orig­i­nally con­ceived as a book for the au­thor’s grand­chil­dren, rather like the but­ter­flies Me­rian stud­ied, as the book de­vel­oped it changed – you could say meta­mor­phosed – into a bi­og­ra­phy that will en­chant and in­form adults and older chil­dren alike.

Eye-catch­ing pic­tures en­liven every page – nearly all are colour re­pro­duc­tions of Me­rian’s il­lus­tra­tions of in­sects and plants – and are suc­cinctly ex­plained; and fact boxes shed light on the sci­ence and his­tory of the pe­riod.

Me­rian’s fas­ci­na­tion with in­sects and their life cy­cles be­gan in 1660 at the age of 13. Col­lect­ing cater­pil­lars and in­sects from gar­dens around her Frankfurt home, bring­ing them home to study and paint, led to her de­scrib­ing but­ter­fly meta­mor­pho­sis – years be­fore other sci­en­tists had pub­lished on the process.

In this slim vol­ume, au­thors Sarah B. Pomeroy, a Pro­fes­sor of Clas­sics and His­tory at the City Univer­sity of New York and pi­o­neer in the field of Women’s His­tory, and Je­yaraney Kathirithamby, an en­to­mol­o­gist at the Depart­ment of Zool­ogy, Univer­sity of Ox­ford, give us an ex­cel­lent in­tro­duc­tion to an in­sa­tiably cu­ri­ous nat­u­ral sci­en­tist and tal­ented artist, but also a coura­geous and in­spi­ra­tional woman who was way ahead of her time.

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