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Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis

by

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:


"Fascinating reading about a little-known, independent woman."--Science

Today, an entomologist in a laboratory can gaze at a butterfly pupa with a microscope so powerful that the swirling cells on the pupa’s skin look like a galaxy. She can activate a single gene or knock it out. What she can’t do is discover how the insect behaves in its natural habitat, which means she doesn’t know what steps to take to preserve it from extinction, nor how any particular gene may interact with the environment.

Three hundred years ago, a fifty-two year-old German woman set sail on a solo scientific expedition to study insect metamorphosis. She could not have imagined the routine magic that scientists perform today, but her absolute insistence on studying insects in their natural habitats was so far ahead of its time that it is only now coming back into favor. Chrysalis restores Maria Sibylla Merian to her rightful place in the history of science, taking us from golden-age Amsterdam to the Surinam tropics to modern laboratories where Merian’s insights fuel new approaches to both ecology and genetics.

"What makes Chrysalis such a pleasure is that our awe is guided by Merian's discoveries. Her life was dedicated to understanding and depicting the science of transformation, yet she never lost her enchantment with what few of us could deny is also miraculous."--Orion

"This lovely and thoughtful book sets Maria Merian's work in its natural context, restoring its true meaning and the reputation she deserves."--Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal 

Kim Todd's previous book, Tinkering with Eden, received the PEN/Jerard Fund Award and the Sigurd F. Olsen Nature Writing Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in Sierra, Orion, Backpacker, and Grist, among other places. She lives in Missoula, Montana.


Synopsis:

Today, an entomologist in a laboratory can gaze at a butterfly pupa with a microscope so powerful that the swirling cells on the pupas skin look like a galaxy. She can activate a single gene or knock it out. What she cant do is discover how the insect behaves in its natural habitat—which means she doesnt know what steps to take to preserve it from extinction, nor how any particular gene may interact with the environment. Four hundred years ago, a fifty-year-old Dutch woman set sail on a solo scientific expedition to study insect metamorphosis. She could not have imagined the routine magic that scientists perform today—but her absolute insistence on studying insects in their natural habitats was so far ahead of its time that it is only now coming back into favor. Chrysalis restores Maria Sibylla Merian to her rightful place in the history of science, taking us from golden-age Amsterdam to the Surinam tropics to modern laboratories where Merians insights fuel new approaches to both ecology and genetics.

Synopsis:

An artist turned naturalist known today mostly for her exquisite insect and butterfly prints, Maria Sibylla Merian was born just thirteen years after Galileo was prosecuted for proclaiming the earth orbited the sun. But in 1699, more than a century before Darwin or Humboldt, she sailed from Amsterdam to South America on an expedition to study metamorphosis. It was an unheard-of journey for any naturalist at that time, much less a woman, and she undertook it at the age of 52 -- with only her daughter for company.

For two years, she stalked the tropical wilderness, looking for the caterpillars that were her passion, sketching her discoveries on scraps of parchment. Her careful observations of iridescent blue morpho butterflies and giant flying cockroaches made her one of the first to describe metamorphosis — at a time when theories of spontaneous generation still held sway (old snow gave birth to flies; raindrops yielded frogs) — and laid the groundwork for modern-day biological science, particularly ecology. But her accomplishments were mostly dismissed and then forgotten in the nineteenth century, when scientists feared that they would be discredited if they built on the work of "amateurs."

Now Kim Todd has restored Merian to her rightful place in the beautifully written and illustrated Chrysalis. Taking us from golden-age Amsterdam to the sweltering rain forests of Surinam to the modern laboratories where Merian's insights fuel a new branch of biology, Kim Todd brings to life an amazing seventeenth-century woman whose boldness and vision would still be exceptional today.

About the Author

KIM TODD's previous book, Tinkering with Eden, received the PEN/Jerard Fund Award and the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, among others. She has an MFA in creative writing and an MS in environmental studies from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE •

ONE: The Most Noble of All the Worms •

TWO: Godly Miracles in a Little Book •

THREE: That Which Is Found in the Fens and Heath •

FOUR: Le Grande Monde •

FIVE: An Awesome and Expensive Trip •

SIX: Far Out into the Wilderness •

SEVEN: The First and Strangest Work That  Had Ever Been Painted in America •

EIGHT: The Modern World Is Very Sensitive •

NINE: Because of Its Color So Special •

CONCLUSION •

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS •

NOTES •

SOURCES •

INDEX •

 

Product Details

ISBN:
9780156032995
Author:
Todd, Kim
Publisher:
Harvest Books
Subject:
Artists, Architects, Photographers
Subject:
Insects & Spiders
Subject:
Environmental Science
Subject:
Physiology
Subject:
Life Sciences - Anatomy & Physiology
Subject:
Life Sciences - Zoology - Entomology
Subject:
Naturalists, Gardeners, Environmentalists
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Merian, Maria Sibylla
Subject:
Naturalists - Germany
Subject:
Biography-Gardeners and Naturalists
Subject:
Biography-Artists Architects and Photographers
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
December 2007
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
One 8-page four-color insert, one 8-page
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
8 x 5.31 in 0.79 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » Artists, Architects, and Photographers
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Biographies
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Entomology and General Invertebrates
Science and Mathematics » History of Science » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Natural History » General

Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Harvest Books - English 9780156032995 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Today, an entomologist in a laboratory can gaze at a butterfly pupa with a microscope so powerful that the swirling cells on the pupas skin look like a galaxy. She can activate a single gene or knock it out. What she cant do is discover how the insect behaves in its natural habitat—which means she doesnt know what steps to take to preserve it from extinction, nor how any particular gene may interact with the environment. Four hundred years ago, a fifty-year-old Dutch woman set sail on a solo scientific expedition to study insect metamorphosis. She could not have imagined the routine magic that scientists perform today—but her absolute insistence on studying insects in their natural habitats was so far ahead of its time that it is only now coming back into favor. Chrysalis restores Maria Sibylla Merian to her rightful place in the history of science, taking us from golden-age Amsterdam to the Surinam tropics to modern laboratories where Merians insights fuel new approaches to both ecology and genetics.
"Synopsis" by ,
An artist turned naturalist known today mostly for her exquisite insect and butterfly prints, Maria Sibylla Merian was born just thirteen years after Galileo was prosecuted for proclaiming the earth orbited the sun. But in 1699, more than a century before Darwin or Humboldt, she sailed from Amsterdam to South America on an expedition to study metamorphosis. It was an unheard-of journey for any naturalist at that time, much less a woman, and she undertook it at the age of 52 -- with only her daughter for company.

For two years, she stalked the tropical wilderness, looking for the caterpillars that were her passion, sketching her discoveries on scraps of parchment. Her careful observations of iridescent blue morpho butterflies and giant flying cockroaches made her one of the first to describe metamorphosis — at a time when theories of spontaneous generation still held sway (old snow gave birth to flies; raindrops yielded frogs) — and laid the groundwork for modern-day biological science, particularly ecology. But her accomplishments were mostly dismissed and then forgotten in the nineteenth century, when scientists feared that they would be discredited if they built on the work of "amateurs."

Now Kim Todd has restored Merian to her rightful place in the beautifully written and illustrated Chrysalis. Taking us from golden-age Amsterdam to the sweltering rain forests of Surinam to the modern laboratories where Merian's insights fuel a new branch of biology, Kim Todd brings to life an amazing seventeenth-century woman whose boldness and vision would still be exceptional today.

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