Thursday, October 25, 2012

Awesome Women: Explorers

In the late 1700s, an explorer named Jean Baret circumnavigated the globe and served as an assistant to naturalist Philibert Commerçon. As is often the case, much of Baret's work was overlooked in favor of Philibert's, but scientists today have concluded that Baret made many important discoveries of his own.“Baret collected thousands of plant specimens from exotic locales around the globe, and, according to Ridley, likely collected the first specimen of one of the world’s most beloved flowering plants—bougainvillea,” wrote biologist Eric Tepe. The discovery was previously attributed to Commerçon. 

(Parenthetically, I happen to be smitten by bougainvillea, and have been frustrated for years that I can't get my little shrub of the stuff to be anything larger than shrub-sized.)

Here's the really cool part, bougainvillea notwithstanding - Jean Baret was actually Jeanne Baret. As was also typical back then, a woman would have been prohibited from doing the type of exploring that JEAN did, so she was forced to disguise herself as a man. As such, JEANNE was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. 

In honor of the amazing explorer, Tepe is now naming one of his newly discovered flower species after her: Solanum baretiae is a distant relative of the potato and tomato. He says, “I don’t think she ever expected recognition in her own lifetime, just because women who were involved in science were thought of, at best, as something of an oddity, and, at worst, they were thought of as an abomination.”

In tomorrow's edition of amazing women, I'll share an article with you that is particularly eye-opening and shows that in some circles, not a lot has changed in 400 years. 

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