WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

Do you know of a great woman in engineering that should be recognized? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add her to the blog. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

Previous in Blog: Woman of the Week - Marie Curie   Next in Blog: Woman of the Week - Dr. Sally Ride
Close
Close
Close
3 comments

Woman of the Week - Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943)

Posted July 09, 2007 6:00 AM by julie

(Helen) Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was best known for her children's books featuring Peter Rabbit, but was also a noted botanist and mycologist.

Beatrix Potter was born in Kensington, London on July 28, 1866. Educated at home, she had little opportunity to interact with other children. She spent a great deal of time with her pet animals, however, and sketched them for hours on end. Gradually, Potter's sketches became better and better, evidence of her talent at an early age. As a teenager, she chloroformed and stuffed a long-eared bat, and then took careful measurements. For her drawings, dead rabbits were boiled and their skeletons preserved in the name of anatomical accuracy. Potter's was an instinctive professionalism.

When Beatrix Potter came of age, her parents appointed her their housekeeper and discouraged her intellectual development, instead requiring her to supervise the family's household. An uncle tried to enroll her as a student at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected because of her gender. Undaunted, she focused upon finding, identifying and painting fungi with extreme scientific accuracy and insight. At the time, painting was the only way to record microscopic images. By 1901, Beatrix Potter had completed some 270 paintings of fungi. Today, this amazing collection is housed in the Armitt Library, Ambleside.

Because of her paintings – and despite of her gender – Potter became respected throughout England as an expert mycologist, a botanist who specializes in fungi. Later, she became one of the first mycologists to suggest that lichens formed a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. Potter's studies of spore germination and the life cycles of fungi were also significant. In 1897, her paper on the germination of spores was presented to the Linnaean Society by her uncle - women were barred from attending meetings. In a similar gesture, the Royal Society snubbed Potter by refusing to publish her technical papers. One hundred years later, England's national academy of science issued a posthumous official apology to Potter for the way she had been treated.

Along the way, Beatrix Potter's life took a turn that drew her away from science. She wrote a story to accompany pictures of rabbits that she had drawn, naming her book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Potter's story was such a success that she began a new career, writing children's books such as The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, The Story of Miss Moppet, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice. In these stories, Potter's animal characters are delightfully drawn with the same attention to accuracy and detail as her scientific illustrations. They also convey her same love of the natural world.

Potter's books earned her a fortune, but the demands of her new career gave her little time for science. Sadly, she never returned to her research. In doing what she is now known for best, Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated a total of 23 books about the adventures of Peter Rabbit and his friends.

Resources:

http://www.astr.ua.edu/4000WS/POTTER.html

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12334
Good Answers: 115
#1

Re: Woman of the Week - Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943)

07/09/2007 8:20 PM

Hey - this is great ! What a cool lady. People who know my alternate avatar (Nutkin)will realize why I found myself here . She is almost a national institution in the UK because of her books , and I didn't know the extent of her Science interest. I shall certainly make note to visit Ambleside if I find myself in the vicinity. The WoW blog has some fantastic stories of great women in it. Nice one Julie !

I shall morph back from my Devil soon.

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Reply
Power-User
United States - US - Statue of Liberty - Technical Fields - Education -

Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: In the middle of the USA
Posts: 334
Good Answers: 14
#2

Re: Woman of the Week - Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943)

07/10/2007 11:05 AM

I agree with Kris! I had done a bit of digging on Beatrix Potter after seeing the movie, "Miss Potter." While it did a good job of capturing the artistic aspect of her life, it totally ignored her scientific accomplishments.

Thanks, Julie. This is a great article.

__________________
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." -- Albert Einstein
Reply
Member

Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 5
#3

Re: Woman of the Week - Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943)

07/12/2007 12:23 AM

As an engineer I am always fascinated by the creative, regardless of the discipline (unfortunate word) in which that creative person is known. Therefore I've been nigh spellbound by the story of this lady.

At the same time, being initially astonished at her treatment by the Royal Society, I am just reminded of that absolute rule that all but the best historians seem to ignore which, simply stated, is to never judge events which happened in another era by the standards of your own time. People get squashed in circumstances which we, the enlightened we think, would never tolerate

Then you reach the puzzler. How is it that the Madam Curies and the Beatrix Potters manage to shine through. How is it that, for example, so much creativity happened in the reign of Victoria when the world was so opposed to change?

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 3 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

bp01 (1); Kris (1); richardl (1)

Previous in Blog: Woman of the Week - Marie Curie   Next in Blog: Woman of the Week - Dr. Sally Ride

Advertisement