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About the Author

KIM TODD's previous book, Tinkering with Eden, received the PEN/Jerard Fund Award and the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award, among others. She has an MFA in creative writing and an MS in environmental studies from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula, Montana.


Metamorphosis has long fascinated humankind, but few people more than Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), who spent her life illustrating this mysterious process in insects. Merian grew up in Germany, married, had two daughters, left her husband to join a Labadist (pietist) community in West Friesland, moved to Amsterdam and, at age 52, traveled to Surinam to search for insects. Beyond that, little is known about this remarkable woman except for a few letters and her beautiful engravings and watercolors, most of them published in her books on insect metamorphosis. Todd (Tinkering with Eden) fleshes out her biography with colorful descriptions of Merian's world and the people she knew, emphasizing that she was as exceptional in her art as in her life. Unlike other naturalists at the time, she depicted insects together with their host plants, an innovation that influenced many later 18th-century students of insect life. Merian fell out of favor in the 19th century, but today, when scientists have come to appreciate the importance of environment to insect development, her star is rising again. Todd's vivid account should do much to further the renewed interest in this unusual woman and her pioneering approach to insect illustration. 8-page color insert not seen by PW. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Women's contributions to science have historically been overlooked or discredited, and we are left with the impression that women played no role in the field's advancement. Such was the case for the gifted naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), whose watercolors and text documented the (still-mysterious) process of metamorphosis at the turn of the 17th century. Though her work was valued at the time, it was discredited in the 1800s. Drawing on Merian's work and personal documents, Todd (Tinkering with Eden) sheds new light on the history and contributions of this absolutely amazing woman. Not only did her interest in science fall outside normal gender roles but Merian also traveled at the age of 50 as far as Surinam from Europe to study her beloved caterpillars. Admittedly filling in some blanks where no documentation exists, Todd explains that all we really need to know about the woman can be seen through the passion of her work. Todd's writing itself is lush, almost poetic, whether she is describing the science of metamorphosis or Merian's own personal metamorphoses throughout her life. Highly recommended for all public and research libraries.-Marianne Stowell Bracke, Purdue Univ. Libs., West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.


"Todd's book is a portrait of the metamorphosis of an age, a society, and a woman whose passion to see the world through the metaphor of moths and butterflies would not abate. The illustrations reproduced in this fine biography affirm Merian's vision; the range of Todd's research and the eloquence of her writing give that vision voice."--Maurice Manning, BookForum "In this spellbinding biography, Todd interweaves the life of Maria Sibylla Merian, a German artist and naturalist who became famous in the seventeenth century for her engravings of caterpillars, with the intellectual and scientific history of metamorphosis."--The New Yorker

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