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Maria Sibylla Merian
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Scientist
    (April 2, 1647-January 13, 1717)
    Born in Frankfurt, Germany
    Naturalist and scientific illustrator
    Known for her studies of insects
    Traveled to the Dutch colony of Suriname (1699-1701)
    Published 'The New Book of Flowers' (3 volumes, 1675-80), 'The Caterpillars' Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food' (1697) and 'Metamorphoses of the Insects of Suriname' (1705)
    She left her husband to join a Dutch religious commune (1695).
    It was considered scandalous that she went to Suriname without a male companion.
    Her talents as an illustrator tended to overshadow her scientific achievements.
    Because they were not written in Latin, her books about insect metamorphosis were largely ignored by scientists of her day.
    She was one of very few women given permission to conduct scientific exploration in the New World.
    In Suriname, she criticized the Dutch planters' treatment of black slaves and the natives.
    She described the life cycle of 186 insect species, amassing evidence that dispelled the notion that insects were created by spontaneous generation.
    Her system for classifying insects influenced Carl Linnaeus.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe admired the way her paintings combined art and science.

Credit: C. Fishel


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