Maria Sibilla Merian


In her early 50s, Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717) left the canals of Amsterdam behind her and embarked on a research trip to South America in order to pursue her passion, the study of creepy-crawlies. 

For two years she documented butterflies and moths in their natural habitat, but was eventually forced by failing health to return to  Amsterdam, where, in 1705, she published the results of her research as Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium.

Merian had been interested in bugs from childhood and had already published work on the life-cycle of moths before her trip to South America. The image shown here is from part of her earlier work, Der rupsen begin. It is hand-coloured, probably by her daughters. (Next)