Maria Sibylla Merian celebrated with Google Doodle for 366th birthday

2 Apr 2013

The Google Doodle in honour of scientific illustrator and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian

Scientific illustrator and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian has been bestowed with an artistic doodle on the Google homepage today on the anniversary of her birth on this day in 1647.

Today’s doodle from Google depicts a butterfly, caterpillars, reptiles and insects all intertwined on a vine that spells out the search giant’s logo in reference to Merian’s detailed paintings of plants and insects.

Born on 2 April 1647 in Frankfurt, Germany, Merian is known for her observations and documentations of the life cycles of butterflies. She is regarded as being a significant early contributor to the evolution of entomology for her observations and depictions of insects.

At the age of 13, Merian painted her first images of insects and plants from specimens she had collected.

In 1665, she married Johann Andreas Graff, an apprentice to her stepfather, the still life painter Jacob Marrel.

After she had her first child, the family moved to Nuremberg in Germany where Merian continued painting and giving drawing lessons.

At the age of 52 she travelled to Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) in South America after the city of Amsterdam sponsored her visit to travel around the Dutch colony to sketch local animals and plant life.

In 1701 she was forced to leave Suriname and return to The Netherlands as a result of malaria. Merian started to work on an illustrated book called Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium [The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname] featuring the life cycles of insects she had studied in Suriname. The book was published in 1705.

A stroke left Merian partially paralysed in 1715. She died two years later on 13 January 1717. Her daughter Dorothea published a posthumous collection of Merian’s work.

 A plate taken from Merian's work Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. Image via Wikimedia Commons

A plate taken from Merian’s work Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic