Maria Sibylla Merian: Google pays tribute to artist-naturalist

Search engine marks 366th anniversary of birth of German artist-naturalist known for her book on the insects of Suriname

Google's latest doodle celebrates the anniversary of the birth of of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), a German who was one of the greatest artist-naturalists of her time and who is regarded as having been a significant influence in the development of entomology.

Merian, who was born in Frankfurt into the family of a Swiss engraver and publisher, had been fascinated by the life cycles of butterflies and made their transformations the subject of close studies.

She became a flower-painter and teacher and, at the age of 52, made an expedition to what is now Suriname after she was inspired by exotic specimens imported from the Dutch colonies for the natural history collections of the Netherlands.

During her time in South America, she travelled around the Dutch colony, sketching local animals and plants but also criticising the treatment of indigenous people and black slaves by Dutch planters.

Returning to Amsterdam two years later, she began work on a lavishly illustrated book, the Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (The Metamorphoses of the Insects of Suriname) which depicted the life cycles of insects she had studied. It was published in 1705, 10 years before she suffered a stroke and was partially paralysed. She died two years later. Her daughter published a collection of her work.

Guardian staff

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