PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Maria Sybella Merian 1683 Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio machaon) on Fennel. Coloured transfer print that aimed to retain the naturalism of the original painting. From the second volume of her book translated as "Caterpillars, Their Wondrous Transformation and Peculiar Nourishment from Flowers" (or simply The Caterpillar Book). Merian first depicted metamorphosis of European butterflies and moths around a single foodplant (here fennel) and was accompanied by a text in which she described each stage. Thus the book pioneered ecology in a way that had not been attempted before. Because of her insights into metamorphosis David Attenborough has named her as among the most significant historical entomologists.Her work on the natural history of Surinam brought greater fame - but this book is her real contribution to science.
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