This absolutely beautiful picture book biography looks at the life of British botanist Anna Atkins who is acknowledged as one of the first women in the world to take a photograph as well as one of the very first people to publish a book of photographic images. The author-illustrator Fiona Robinson uses a time-line to tell Anna’s amazing story, featuring key moments in the scientist’s life.
Anna’s interest in the natural world and in particular plants, was fostered by her widowed father, scientist and entomologist John Children, who took it upon himself to give his much-loved daughter the best education possible at a time when few girls were schooled at all. He taught her chemistry, physics, zoology and botany, as well as Latin and she became his partner in research, studying specimens together.
Anna’s marriage to John Pelly Atkins in London sees her continuing dedicating herself to creating a herbarium and becoming ever more eager to share her work with a wide audience; if only there was a way to make an accurate copy of her collection, she thinks. When she moves with her husband and now retired father to Kent, Anna’s father gives her an exciting present – one of the very first cameras ever made.
Father and daughter together explore their shared interests and meet astronomer, scientist and experimenter, Sir John Herschel who introduces them to cyanotope, the chemical reaction of which produces permanent images. Anna knows just what she wants to use cyanotopes for: to publish the very first book that brings together botany and photography.
Wonderfully presented, this biography of a pioneering woman scientist is both inspiring and distinctive in appearance. Fiona Robinson’s visuals make use of cyanotope’s blue and white, cleverly and imaginatively combining her own art with reproductions of Anna’s illustrations.
A fine example of a book that demonstrates the importance both of STEAM subjects and the role of women in both the arts and science fields.