Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Women's History Month | Jeanne Villepreux-Power

Marine biology pioneer Jeanne Villepreux-Power invented the aquarium to study aquatic life

[In honor of Women's History Month, 13.7 Billion Years remembers 22 female scientists throughout history who may be a bit overlooked today.]

Born in 1794 in the small village of Juillac in central France, Jeanne Villepreux-Power was the daughter of a shoemaker. A self-taught naturalist, she was a pioneering marine biologist who studied mollusks, argonauts and fossil shells.

She gained prominence throughout Europe for her groundbreaking research into the paper nautilus (Argonauta argo, pictured), an unusual species of tropical pelagic octopus, the female of which creates a paper-thin eggcase, hence the name. From 1832 to 1842, she was the only woman at the Gioenian Academy of Natural Sciences in Catania, Italy.

She is also the inventor of the aquarium, several types of which she constructed to study live mollusks. The English biologist Professor Richard Owen (known for coining the word "dinosaur") dubbed her the "Mother of Aquariophily." In 1997, a crater on Venus discovered by the Magellan probe was named after her.

  • DUE TOMORROW, March 15: Tell your representative to reinstate the Prescott Grant, which has helped IFAW rescue countless marine mammals and provide crucial data to help shape NOAA policies, but which President Obama eliminated in his proposed 2013 federal budget (IFAW)
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image: Argonauta argo at Oslo Zoological Museum (Wikimedia Commons)

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