Maria Sibylla Merian

Groundbreaking Entomologist, Illustrator, and Caterpillar Queen

Maria Sibylla Merian was born into a family of artists in mid-17th century Germany, so it’s no surprise when she starts detailing fine illustrations of nature at just 13 years old, but what we’re sure her parents didn’t see coming was her vast collection of… CATERPILLARS!

That’s right. Maria ends up becoming the foremost expert on our favorite very hungry insects, and whole bunch of other works of nature including a wide variety of plants and even frogs! Maria’s research and drawings are so meticulously detailed that she ends up turning the world of etymology on its head, dispelling inaccurate myths and rewriting the bug-knowledge books of the time.

Maria is one of the most talented nerds we’ve ever talked about on this podcast, so you’d better tune in now to hear her fascinating story!

“I spent my time investigating insects. At the beginning, I started with silkworms in my home town of Frankfurt. I realized that other caterpillars produced beautiful butterflies or moths, and that silkworms did the same. This led me to collect all the caterpillars I could find in order to see how they changed.”

Maria Sibylla Merian