How Anna Atkins blazed a garden path for women to sneak into science

March 16, 2015 Comments Off on How Anna Atkins blazed a garden path for women to sneak into science
How Anna Atkins blazed a garden path for women to sneak into science

Like many women in the sciences, Anna Atkins, celebrated Monday on Google’s search page, entered her field by focusing on illustrations.

By Lisa Suhay, Correspondent 

Many women in science today are still coming into their fields through the garden gate opened by English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins, subject of today’s Google Doodle, who may have been the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images.

Today the Google Doodle celebrates what would have been Ms. Atkins’s 216th birthday.

“While there’s been a huge change in science where women are concerned, it all started with botany and women like Anna Atkins,” Vicki Funk, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Botany Department. “Somebody’s got to break the ice for women in science, and frequently it’s in botany.”

Atkins was a trowelblazer, not just an accomplished scientific illustrator, but perhaps, some say, the first woman to create a photograph.

“Trained as a botanist, Anna Atkins developed an interest in photography as a means of recording botanical specimens for a scientific reference book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impression,” notes the Getty Museum website.

Atkins, much like celebrated botanical illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717) before her, had a passion for the sciences at a time when women were relegated to amateur status by the male-dominated scientific community.

Both Atkins and Merian paved the way for Katherine Esau (born 1898) a botanist who became the 5th woman inducted to the National Academy of Sciences

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