The remarkable contributions of Maria Sibylla Merian, a 17th-century self-taught artist and the first person to document the metamorphosis of the butterfly, are not as well-known as those of John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and Carl Linnaeus, but her discoveries preceded and influenced those later naturalists.
At a time when the most learned adhered to the Aristotelian theory of “spontaneous generation,” that insects came from “dew, dung, dead animals, or mud” and were “beasts of the Devil,” Merian was convinced otherwise. Captivated by the mysterious lives of insects, she wanted to know where they came from. Flouting the conventions of the time to pursue her passion for insects made Merian’s life difficult, but she never allowed adversity to interfere with her dogged pursuit of knowledge. Travelers’ stories inspired her to take an arduous journey to the Dutch colony of Surinam to observe, document, and collect exotic species. With techniques learned from her stepfather, Merian became an accomplished artist, rendering in beautiful, extraordinary detail the intricacies of caterpillars, flies, moths, butterflies, and other insects. She recorded her keen observations in a research journal and published three books about her discoveries. This fascinating account of Merian’s life and work is beautifully designed and embellished with both Sidman’s photographs of what Merian studied and images of her artwork. Informative captions identify and connect each image’s relevance to Merian’s life and work.
An exceptionally crafted visual biography of a pioneering entomologist and naturalist who lived a life devoted to discovery. (glossary, timeline, source notes, bibliography, further reading) (Biography. 9-12)