Maria Sibylla Merian: The first ecologist?

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Department 1



The images in Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium are among the most dramatic and beautiful in any natural history book, but even as her work has been celebrated by art historians, the significance of her contributions has been overlooked by most historians of science. Both Metamorphosis and her earlier Raupen books were seminal in shaping how nature was viewed and how it was portrayed by those who followed her. The plates in these richly illustrated books were not only the first to depict the life cycles of insects along with their plant hosts; they were also the first to emphasize interactions among the species portrayed – the very foundation of the study of ecology. This paper will recount Merian’s major contributions to the study of natural history and her considerable influence on other naturalists and scientists who followed her.


Original version is available from the publisher at: http://www.cambridgescholars.com/women-and-science-17th-century-to-present-11