Botanical Art

Episode 45: Documenting the Natural World

This episode is a double-bill, featuring two interviewees speaking about two historical figures who led lives with many parallels, although they were working almost two centuries apart.

The first interview is with Teri Sayers-Copper and we discuss the life and work of Marianne North. Marianne was a biologist and botanical artist who journeyed across the world during the Victorian era, documenting the flora and fauna of the countries throughout which she travelled. Marianne explored and painted in every continent except Antartica and was responsible for documenting landscapes that were rapidly changing and disappearing in the wake of a developing world.

The second part of the interview is with Tanya Latty, Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Sydney. Tanya talks about Maria Sibylla Merian, a naturalist and scientific illustrator who was born in Germany in 1647. Merian also travelled the globe, meticulously observing and documenting insects and plants. In fact, she was the first to document caterpillar metamorphosis in an age where her contemporaries believed they came about by “spontaneous generation”!


Teri Sayers-Cooper

The Marianne North Gallery – Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Marianne North : The Kew Collection – RBG Kew, 2018

Recollections of a Happy Life: Being the Autobiography of Marianne North

Hidden women of history: Maria Sibylla Merian, 17th-century entomologist and scientific adventurer – Dr Tanya Latty, The Conversation, February 20 2019.

The Woman Who Made Science Beautiful – Andrea Wulf, The Atlantic, January 19 2016.

Video of a talk given at the Linnean Society – A Curious Performance: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Art of Natural History by Kate Heard, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust

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