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Beatrix Potter: mushroom expert


I love this story in The Independent about Beatrix Potter and how her career as a mushroom expert was stifled by male cads because she was a woman. And now her study of fungi will finally be presented to London’s Linnean Society, the body that rejected her work in 1897 because she wore a dress.

The Linnean Society was founded in 1788 and it looks like its website was built in that year too.

The Independent writes:

According to some academics, Potter’s close observations presented as watercolour paintings were part of the movement which helped scientists eventually reclassify fungi as a kingdom separate of plants and animals.

“Beatrix Potter looked into the germination of their spores. The illustrations which survive stand up as beautiful and highly accurate representations, so her observational powers were clearly very good. In that way, they are not dissimilar to the drawings which accompanied her children’s books,” said Dr Elizabeth Rollinson, Executive Secretary of the Linnean Society of London.

But when Miss Potter came to present her findings to the Society, she was told they would have to be read by a man because women were not allowed to become members.

For some beautiful illustrations of mushrooms, I refer you to the work of MC Cooke (see the image at the top of this post). Mordecai Cubitt Cooke wrote Handbook of British Fungi and Rust, Smut, Mildew, & Mould. An Introduction to the Study of Microscopic Fungi.

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Richard Davies

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