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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Credit where credit is due

Although women from previous centuries were just as capable as women today, that fact was not always recognized.  A case in point was the eighteenth century French botanist Jeanne Baret.  She should have been an obvious choice for the 1766 expedition led by Louis Antioine de Bougainville, but women at that time were prohibited from sailing on French naval vessels.  So she went anyway, dressed as a man.

Baret and her mentor, Philibert Commerson, participated in the first French circumnavigation of the Earth.  Along the way, they collected and catalogued thousands of plants, over seventy of which were named for Commerson. Even the captain got a plant named after him (three guesses what that was).  But Baret went unrecognized. Until now. 

University of Utah and University of Cincinnati botanist Eric Tepe heard an NPR story about Jeanne Baret and decided to give credit where it’s due.  To that end, he and his colleagues Glynis Ridley (author of the book The Discovery of Jeanne Baret) and Lynn Bohs have named a plant after Baret.  You can see pictures of Solanum baretiae below.