Teaching Science through History
Introduction || Contents || Resources  

Women in Science: Maria Merian & Hildegard von Bingen

by Susan Herder

Marian MerianOverview

When people refer to nature, they always use the feminine to describe or portray it. We hear about "Mother Nature." Personification of the sciences in sixteenth and seventeenth century texts and frontispieces were mostly women, unreal and deified. However, the field was truly open only to men as a profession. Women remained invisible, except in positions as midwives, until the late nineteenth century. The purpose of these middle school curriculum modules is to bring to light the contributions of a few of the female pioneers of science: Maria Sibylla Merian and Hildegard von Bingen.

Background: "Women of the Scientific Revolution" (Word doc, 30kb)

Maria Merian (Word doc, 102kb)
Three class activities contextualize standard lessons on insects in Merian's life and culture: (1) matching caterpillars and adult butterflies; (2) raising butterflies (life cycle); (3) mortality rates

Hildegard von Bingen (Word doc, 80kb)
Three short class activities highlight views of the universe and how they have changed over time: (1) diagraming student preconceptions; (2) comparing ancient views and reasons for holding them; (3) the idea of the microcosm and oppportunity for personal expression (link to art).