Friday, July 22, 2005

Quaker History

Audubon of botony'

The Journal
White Plains/NY/USA/16-Jul-05

... The work, she discovered, was that of Mary Vaux Walcott, a trailblazing naturalist known as the "Audubon of botany."

Born into a wealthy Quaker family in 1860, Walcott produced the scientifically correct renderings at a time when women were largely excluded from the scientific and academic worlds.

Jones called the find "empowering" and said it inspired her to dig into Walcott's history, along the way learning of a tradition of women scientists, many of whom were naturalists like Walcott, determined to contribute to scientific understanding despite those barriers.

"A historian pulls a thread out of a piece of fabric, and you never know where it's going to lead," Jones said.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Walcott was not allowed to attend college but could practice art. She developed a talent for painting with watercolors, and on family vacations in the Canadian Rockies, she began to photograph and produce paintings of wildflowers, Jones said. That love of nature led her to produce a collection of more than 500 wildflowers from all regions of the United States, Jones said.

Walcott married the noted geologist and paleontologist Charles D. Walcott, a secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in 1914. In 1925, the Smithsonian published "North American Wildflowers," a portfolio of her lithographic prints.

"Walcott's work was so exceptional because she approached her work with the eye of an artist and a scientist," said Peter Minorsky, an assistant professor of biology at Mercy. "Before the advent of color photography, it took great experience and imagination to picture a dried and pressed herbarium specimen as a living, green organism. Walcott's work really made these plants intelligible to people who had never beheld them." ...


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