Ogilvie Presents at Amsterdam Symposium on Maria Sibylla Merian

Brian Ogilvie

Brian Ogilvie, associate professor of history, was invited to speak at an international symposium, “Exploring Merian,” held May 26-28 at the library of Artis Zoo in Amsterdam.

The program focused on the work and legacy of Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). Merian, a German-born artist and naturalist active in Amsterdam, was one of the few prominent women scientists before the 20th century; she specialized in the study of insect metamorphosis and traveled to Surinam from 1699 to 1701 to study its insects, resulting in her 1705 book “Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam.” Ogilvie’s talk examined her posthumous reputation: widely respected in the 18th century, her work fell out of favor in the 19th century as entomology became professionalized and women’s contributions were minimized.

This was Ogilvie’s third presentation to European audiences this spring. On March 13 he gave a lecture at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris, titled “Art, sciences, religion: Vers une histoire pluridisciplinaire des insectes à l’époque modern” (Art, science, religion: Toward an interdisciplinary history of insects in the early modern period). The following week, April 17-20, he participated in a meeting of an interdisciplinary research network on Francis Willughby, held at Hassop Hall in England’s Peak District. Willughby, who died in 1672, was an important amateur scientist; the research group is reconstructing his contributions to the study of nature, with Ogilvie specializing in Willughby’s interest in insect behavior and metamorphosis. The Willughby research network, led by Tim Birkhead of Sheffield University, is funded by a three-year, 111,664-pound grant from the Leverhulme Trust.