Maria Sibylla Merian and the Metamorphosis of Natural History

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Known primarily for creating beautiful images of butterflies and flowers, Maria Sibylla Merian (German, 1647–1717) has remained largely unappreciated for her seminal contribution to early modern natural history. Merian was indeed a talented artist, but she clearly thought of herself as a naturalist, and employed both text and images to depict lepidopteran metamorphosis and behavior with unprecedented accuracy and detail. Merian documented larvae and adult insects feeding not only on plants, but also on other animals, and she depicted other creatures preying on insects. An image of battling spiders and ants and the accompanying text in her 1705 Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium illuminated the world of tropical arthropods in a way that was groundbreaking, and set the stage for a new way to envision nature.

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Original version is available from the publisher at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160932710000700