As you probably know, today is international women’s day. So I’m going to go right ahead and tell you that Maria Sibylla Merian is one of my favorite badass ladies of the science/art world.
Born in Germany during the mid 1600s, Merian began her artistic career at a young age, painting her first observations of insects around age 13. She spent most of her life studying and composing beautiful watercolor paintings of her observations of nature and is most noted for being the first person to clearly record the life cycles of moths and butterflies. She made a self-funded expedition to Suriname where she recorded a bunch of previously unknown flora and fauna, she invented a washable fabric cloth, and published several books. Mind you, this was at a time when oil paints weren’t considered lady-like, the western world believed that moths and butterflies spontaneously birthed themselves from mud, and western ladies were advised not to go into tropical climates because it was known that women would furiously menstruate themselves into a hemorrhaging death.
Please do yourself a favor and go read a book about this woman. Thank you for your time.
I’ve written a few papers on her, but I don’t have the time to go dig them up right now. I’ll suggest some readings for you when I find them.