August 2012: Beatrix Potter

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Beatrix Potter: The Mycologist

Beatrix Potter as a mycologist and scientific artist

The work of Beatrix Potter as a mycologist and scientific artist was celebrated at a recent event, to mark the centenary of the Armitt Library and Museum in Ambleside, Cumbria, which holds a considerable collection of her work. A young female mycologist, Ali Murfitt, presented a synopsis of a scientific paper which Beatrix Potter wrote in 1897, and which was presented to the Linnean Society on her behalf.

Mycology Cake

The paper, “On the germination of the spores of Agaricineae” was returned to Beatrix, with some feedback from the Linnean Society to ready the paper for publication, but the paper subsequently disappeared. However, its essence has been collated by Professor Roy Watling of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Beatrix eventually abandoned a scientific career when it became apparent that she would be able to earn a living from writing and illustrating The Tale of Peter Rabbit and subsequent books for children. However, her contribution to the development of mycological research is acknowledged by scientists today. Professor Roy Watling provided an introduction to Beatrix Potter's mycological studies and he then put this in the context of mycology today.

Beatrix Potter’s paper and the Armitt Museum presented some original Mycological paintings

The event, held on Friday 20th April 2012 was a huge success, not only attracting a large audience but also attracting national and regional interest. Elizabeth Rollinson, Secretary of the Linnean Society, and Ali Murfit, the young mycologist who presented Beatrix Potter’s paper at the event, were invited to speak on BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour. The event was followed by afternoon tea where a special Mycological-themed cake was enjoyed. In addition to this the Society’s Minutes were on show, documenting the original presentation of Beatrix Potter’s paper and the Armitt Museum presented some original Mycological paintings by Beatrix Potter and some of her hand-crafted portfolios.