Maria Sibylla Merian, an entomologist and scientific historian who painted the plants and insects that she studied, is being honored today with a new Google logo (aka Google doodle) on what would’ve been her 366th birthday.
Merian’s Wikipedia page shines a light on her importance to science:
She published three collections of engravings of plants in 1675, 1677, and 1680. Afterward she studied insects, keeping her own live specimens, and made drawings showing insect metamorphosis, in which all life stages of the insect (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) were depicted in the same drawing.
In her time, it was very unusual that someone would be genuinely interested in insects, which had a bad reputation and were colloquially called “beasts of the devil.” As a consequence of their reputation, the metamorphosis of these animals was largely unknown. Merian described the life cycles of 186 insect species, amassing evidence that contradicted the contemporary notion that insects were “born of mud” by spontaneous generation.
Today’s Google logo is sure to cause less controversy than the Cesar Chavez logo on Easter Sunday.