April 2nd: Maria Sibylla Merian!

It’s been a busy week here at Speaking Up, and that continues this morning with a Doodle honoring Maria Sibylla Merian. Merian was a Swiss nature illustrator who contributed, through her detailed paintings, to understanding of entomology. In the U.S., Merian is the 10th birthday Doodle posted this year, and women are represented at a 30 percent rate — better than ever before! If you count up Doodles posted all around the world, Merian is the 10th woman honored this year out of 45 Doodles so far.

A Doodle honoring the 366th birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian, posted on April 2nd, 2013.

A Doodle honoring the 366th birthday of Maria Sibylla Merian, posted on April 2nd, 2013.

Here’s a bit more about Maria Merian:

Merian was born on this date in 1647, and lived until the age of 69. She was accomplished in painting and drawing from a very early age, and as a young woman was already studying specimens of plants and animals to create detailed images of them. Over the course of her career, she published many collections of these images; she traveled in South America to find new specimens, but also visited the private collections of plants and insects owned by wealthy Europeans.

Maria Merian's portrait on a German banknote. Can you imagine seeing women, and scientists, on your cash every day?

Maria Merian’s portrait on a German banknote. Can you imagine seeing women, and scientists, on your cash every day?

Merian is best known for her careful studies of moth and butterfly life stages and, in particular, metamorphosis. By carefully studying caterpillars before, during, and after this transition, she helped this process become much better understood. She discovered that particular plants were depended on to nourish the animal at different stages. Her work was unusual at the time because she raised and studied living organisms, giving her different insights compared to others who worked with preserved specimens. Merian’s work depended both on a keen, scientific, carefully observant mind and upon her great skill as an artist, so I’m very proud to write about her and to see her included in Google Doodles.

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