Reviews for The lady and the octopus : how Jeanne Villepreux-Power invented aquariums and revolutionized marine biology

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An account of the life of the pioneering Frenchwoman who invented the aquarium.While she is not a household name today, Jeanne Villepreux-Powers influence can still be felt. Born in 1794, Villepreux-Power was famed for her study of sea creatures, particularly a type of octopus called the argonaut. The book argues convincingly that sexism and a tragic shipwreck that sank 16 cases of her specimens, drawings, and notes made the brilliant scientist less well known than she should have been. Overcoming those obstacles, as well as the primitive state of life science study in the 1800sin particular the limited ability to study sea creatures in their habitatsand aided by the privilege of being a White woman of means, Villepreux-Power invented the first glass aquariums to observe sea life and discovered that argonauts build their shells rather than find them at sea, as was believed at the time. Marine biologist, science writer, and fellow cephalopod expert Staaf details Villepreux-Powers life using a mix of existing research about the woman and more recent scientific findings. The book takes plenty of detours into history and culture to better explain thorny issues, such as the treatment of animals, full-page takes on the metric system, and the effects of oil on water. It feels like a few too many asides for a straightforward biography, but as a broader look at the life of a scientist in the 1800s, its well researched and expertly explained.A seaworthy bio of a revolutionary scientist. (authors note, timeline, glossary, source notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Biography. 11-15) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An account of the life of the pioneering Frenchwoman who invented the aquarium. While she is not a household name today, Jeanne Villepreux-Power’s influence can still be felt. Born in 1794, Villepreux-Power was famed for her study of sea creatures, particularly a type of octopus called the argonaut. The book argues convincingly that sexism and a tragic shipwreck that sank 16 cases of her specimens, drawings, and notes made the brilliant scientist less well known than she should have been. Overcoming those obstacles, as well as the primitive state of life science study in the 1800s—in particular the limited ability to study sea creatures in their habitats—and aided by the privilege of being a White woman of means, Villepreux-Power invented the first glass aquariums to observe sea life and discovered that argonauts build their shells rather than find them at sea, as was believed at the time. Marine biologist, science writer, and fellow cephalopod expert Staaf details Villepreux-Power’s life using a mix of existing research about the woman and more recent scientific findings. The book takes plenty of detours into history and culture to better explain thorny issues, such as the treatment of animals, full-page takes on the metric system, and the effects of oil on water. It feels like a few too many asides for a straightforward biography, but as a broader look at the life of a scientist in the 1800s, it’s well researched and expertly explained. A seaworthy bio of a revolutionary scientist. (author’s note, timeline, glossary, source notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Biography. 11-15) Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.