Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist & Adventurer
S. B. Pomeroy & J. Kathirithamby
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.