Happy 366th Birthday, Maria Sibylla Merian!

Today’s Google doodle caught my eye for its understated whimsy and it turned out to mark the birthday of a pioneering scientific illustrator, Maria Sibylla Merian. Her carefully observed work drew on the extensive collections of the Dutch East Indies Company, and eventually to a years long sojourn with her two daughters, also illustrators, to the tropical Dutch colony of Suriname. There she was first European to capture the life cycle of the Surinam Toad, whose mothers carry their tadpoles on their backs, under their skin, from whence the baby toads burst out.

“In my youth, I spent my time investigating insects,” the naturalist wrote in the foreword to her book “Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam).” “At the beginning, I started with silk worms in my home town of Frankfurt. I realised that other caterpillars produced beautiful butterflies or moths, and that silk worms did the same. This led me to collect all the caterpillars I could find in order to see how they changed.” WaPo

In the stacks:

Maria Sibylla Merian & daughters : women of art and science / Ella Reitsma – ND588.M527 R4513 2008

Amazing rare things : the art of natural history in the age of discovery / David Attenborough, Susan Owens, Martin Clayton and Rea Alexandratos -QH46.5 .A88 2007

Insects and Flowers The Art of Maria Sibylla Merian / David Brafman [in process]

A new flowering : 1000 years of botanical art / Shirley Sherwood – QK98.3 .N42 2005

Cosmic imagery : key images in the history of science / John D. Barrow – QB981 .B2798 2008

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