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A Scientific Foremother

I was deeply disturbed by the entry on Beatrix Potter in the "Notebook" section of The Scientist on Oct. 26, 1992 [page 4]. The article used words like "gruesome" and "bizarre" to describe Potter's childhood interest in science, while giving no indication that Potter was an important scientist in her era. Her work on the symbiotic nature of lichen--the first to be published in the British isles--was read before the Linnaean Society of London by her uncle. She could neither deliver the work herse

Anne Fausto-sterling

I was deeply disturbed by the entry on Beatrix Potter in the "Notebook" section of The Scientist on Oct. 26, 1992 [page 4]. The article used words like "gruesome" and "bizarre" to describe Potter's childhood interest in science, while giving no indication that Potter was an important scientist in her era. Her work on the symbiotic nature of lichen--the first to be published in the British isles--was read before the Linnaean Society of London by her uncle. She could neither deliver the work herself nor attend the meeting at which it was discussed because women were unwelcome.

Her presence as a researcher in the British Museum was also unwelcome, and eventually she threw in the towel and wrote children's books. This did not prevent her from cataloging the fungi of the British isles; many of her exquisite drawings are still today the type drawings used for taxonomic purposes. In her...

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