Mme Jeanne Black Pearl
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Mme. Jeanne

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Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871) has been heralded as the “mother” of aquariophily, and was a pioneering female macalogist (the study of mollusks). Raised in the small village of Juillac, France, she made her way into the world at the age of 18 by walking to Paris where she became an accomplished dressmaker. She achieved initial fame following the celebrated creation of a wedding gown for a Bourbon princess; this led to an advantageous marriage to James Power, a wealthy English merchant who took her to Sicily where they resided for over two decades.

Freed from the constraints of supporting herself, Jeanne was able to cultivate her love of the natural world, particularly the rich ocean life that surrounded her on the island. She immersed herself in the landscape, spending her days collecting and recording everything from shells and fossils to insect wings.

In order to strengthen her scientific observations, Jeanne invented what is now her most famous achievement: the world’s first aquarium. Three different models were developed to aid in her delicate work: the first, a “classic” glass aquarium, was built for study within her home. Two more, both anchored in the nearby sea, were of glass surrounded by protective cages. One housed smaller mollusks, while the second could be dropped to different depths to accommodate larger mollusks.

Among Jeanne’s distinguished discoveries were the unusual mating habits of the Argonauta argo (a species of octopus that was of particular interest to her, and one that fueled over 11 years of her studies), as well as her suggestion that rivers suffering from a loss of aquatic life could be repopulated by introducing tank-raised fish to sustainable levels. As a scientist she was accepted as the only female member of the Catania Accademia, was an affiliate of over a dozen other academies, and was the author of numerous scholarly papers.

Jeanne’s pattern traces her steps from humble, lace-stitching tailor to her hard-won aquatic scholarship, embodied in an elegant, ascending mollusk scallop.

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Product Description

3″ repeat, straight-across match

Roll: 27″ wide x 5 yards long

Print: 27″ wide x 36″ long (ideal for framing)

Sample: 9″ wide x 11″ long

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Story Resources:

– Arnal, Claude: Jeanne Villepreux-Power: A Pioneering Experimental Macalogist. Macalogical Society of London.

– Arnal, Claude: http://www.astr.ua.edu/4000WS/VILLEPREUX.html

– Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_Villepreux-Power

 

Additional Information

About Naturalist Collection

From cave drawings to String Theory, man’s desire to understand the world around him has been a constant influence on our species’ progression. Universities have been built, experiments undertaken and theories refined, all in the hallowed name of “science.” And while discoveries by men such as Darwin and Newton have made them household names, there are countless others whose scholarly work has been lost, forgotten or even usurped by other intellectuals. Our Spring 2010 wallpaper line highlights three such individuals, all of whom are women, whose phenomenal academic stories have fallen between the cracks of history. As female scientists in the nineteenth century, these women faced an oxymoronic distinction that their male counterparts eluded. Sexist barriers discouraged most young girls from the pursuit of an intellectual calling, yet our subjects persevered by challenging the status quo and developing their own route to recognized scholastic excellence. Each woman was largely self taught, and relied almost entirely on an innate passion for her respective field–something that makes their achievements all the more remarkable. Our bonnet is off to these unsung scientific heroines!