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Google's Doodle for Maria Sibylla Merian: What makes her special?

April 02, 2013|By Jamie Wetherbe

Google on Tuesday is noting the 366th anniversary of Maria Sibylla Merian's birth with the gift of the Google Doodle.

So what makes Merian special? Her work was a marriage of art and science in a time of few female scientists and little documentation of pupal insects.

The 17th century artist and naturalist (thus, the search engine’s name spelled out with curled flora, fauna and critters), was captured by butterflies and other pupal insects.

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The daughter of an engraver and publisher and stepdaughter of a botanical painter, she started studying silkworms as a child in her native Frankfurt, Germany. “This led me to collect all the caterpillars I could find in order to see how they changed,” she wrote in the foreword to her book “Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium” ("Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam").

Not content to just study European insects, Merian traveled to South America to document the continent’s bushes and bugs until malaria forced her to return home to the Netherlands.

Her South American studies prompted her aforementioned caterpillar book, for which she is most well known and respected.

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Merian suffered a stroke in 1715 that left her partially paralyzed. She died a pauper in Amsterdam in 1717 at the age of 70.

Once denounced as a too-independent woman, Merian as since been recognized as one of the most talented scientific illustrators of her day and beyond.

A video of Merian’s doodle is above. See if you can spot the misspelling.

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