Role Of Women In The Scientific Revolution

1891 words - 8 pages

Maria Sibylla Merian was an early biologist. She was the daughter of Matthäus Merian, a Swiss artist and publisher. Matthäus died when Maria was three, and her mother remarried Jacob Marrel, a painter, who taught and encouraged Maria in the arts. As a child, she loved to go with her stepfather to collect wildflowers and insects, but unlike her stepfather, Maria also liked to study the specimens. She published her first book of drawings of different species and different stages in their life cycle at age thirteen, and published five more in her lifetime. (Fisher) In 1691, Maria moved to Amsterdam, where she discovered that her works were famous there for their information on plants. She found that many wealthy families had exotic species that she had never seen before. Many of these families were more than willing to let her study their plants. This let Maria to become more and more curious about South American plants. (Epigenesys) When she was fifty-two, she went on a two-year ecological study in South America. Unfortunately, she contacted yellow fever and had to return early. Because Maria published her findings in picture form, she is remembered in history as an artist, not a scientist. (Fisher)
Margaret Cavendish was born in Colchester in 1623. Since she was a middle class woman, she did not receive an education in mathematics, English, history, philosophy, and sciences, but she read books on these subjects in the Oxford library. To avoid marriage, Margaret became a maid of honor for Queen Henrietta Maria, who was exiled to France one year later. (Cunning) Margaret stayed with the queen during her exile, and in France, met William Cavendish, an artist and scientist, who she married in 1645 (University of Nottingham). In 1653, Margaret published her first book, Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (Cunning). While Margaret continued to stay with the queen, she was introduced to “the Newcastle Circle”, a group of scientists including Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes and Pierre Gassendi. Although she did not participate in their discussions as many other women did, her scientific work took off after meeting them. Margaret published thirteen more books in her lifetime, but because she had never studied spelling and grammar, her works were full of errors, and were criticized on that point. Margaret found extremely creative ways to study science as a woman. She was not allowed to perform classical dissections, so she examined animals while preparing them for a meal. (Herder) In 1667, she received an invitation to attend the Royal Society, the first woman to receive one (Cunning). Unfortunately, her participation as seen as “flamboyant, masculine and ridiculous”, and women were not allowed to be full members of the Royal Society until 1945. When a member of the Royal Society questioned Margaret on why a woman should be allowed to participate in science, she replied “some women are wiser than men”. (Cook) ...

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