Celebrating scientific illustrators for Women’s History Month

Celebrating scientific illustrators for Women’s History Month

European Toadstool by Frances Reed

Look back through the history of science and you will mostly see images of white men. However, there were many incredible women who contributed to scientific endeavour. Gradually, the stories of these amazing women are emerging. March sees the USA celebrate Women’s History Month. As such, we are stardust is delighted to feature a guest blog from Michelle Marshal, and independent researcher based in the USA focusing on natural history and scientific illustration. 

Excited by her discoveries, Michelle started her website Historical SciArt featuring illustrations based on the collections of Biodiversity Heritage Library - a consortium of outstanding libraries, archives, special collections, and museums whose natural history works have been digitised and gathered in one central place.

For this Women’s History Month blog, Michelle has chosen to feature two outstanding scientist sisters from the historical archives of scientific illustration.

Anna Maria Hussey

Red Cage Fungus by Anna Maria Hussey
 Red Cage Fungus (Clathrus ruber) by Anna Maria Hussey.

Anna Maria Hussey (1805–53) was one of the leading mycologists (mushroom specialist) and scientific illustrators of her day. She meticulously studied mushrooms and created gorgeous scientific art that showcased her work in science. Married to Thomas John Hussey, Rector of Hays, Kent, UK, she apparently wasn’t as enthusiastic about her role as a clergyman’s wife as she was about her research often objecting when she was called upon by “every old woman in the parish”.

She was regularly in touch with the leading mycologist of the day, Reverend Miles Joseph Berkey, and knew Charles Darwin who lived nearby. Her work came together in her two-volume, Illustrations of British Mycology, containing figures and descriptions of the funguses of interest and novelty indigenous to Britain. The scientific work and illustrations in these books were actually serially published from 1847-55 before being collected into these two volumes. 

Frances Reed

European Toadstool by Frances Reed

European Toadstools, also known as Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) by Frances Reed.

Perhaps one of the most treasured parts of Anne Marie Hussey's spectacular Illustrations of British Mycology is that she also included the scientific illustrations of Frances Reed (1810–72), her younger sister. Together these sisters made a lasting impact on the fields of mycology and scientific art.


As well as the sisters’ beautiful and celebrated illustrations, Anna Maria Hussey had a species of fungi named after her by Miles Joseph Berkely using her maiden name Reed: Agaricus reedii.

During their time the sisters accepted the mainstream view that women were more educators to other women and children, rather than academics in their own right. Today, we rectify that view and celebrate their achievements and significant contributions to natural history.

Happy Women’s History Month!


We are stardust botany collection

We are stardust has three medicinal plants in the current botany collection. I am working on a new series of plants related to hot drinks - namely tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Sign up to the we are stardust journal, a regular email newsletter, to be the first to find out when they are in the shop.

Follow Historical SciArt

Michelle’s blog is full of interesting insights into the lives and work of historical scientific illustrations: https://histsciart.com/category/biodiversity/

Follow the Biodiversity Heritage Library


I love discovering new scientific and natural history illustrators. Who is your favourite? Let me know in the comments.

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