The Lady and the Octopus: How Jeanne Villepreux-Power Invented Aquariums and Revolutionized Marine Biology

Carolrhoda. Oct. 2022. 136p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781728415772.
Gr 8 Up–This biography seems on the surface to be a typical description of a historic female scientist whose discoveries went unheralded in her lifetime. More careful consideration reveals that this author is as resourceful and ingenious in relating the story of her subject as Jeanne Villepreux-Power was in her scholarly endeavors. Though she grew up in obscurity in rural France during the French Revolution, Villepreux-Power bravely ventured to Paris when she was 17 years old. There she parlayed her creativity and initiative into jobs in women’s fashions. Her design of a wedding dress for a princess brought her notoriety and the particular attention of her future husband. Villepreux-Power moved to Sicily with her husband and began her self-education and experimentation with the natural world. She became an expert in many areas of natural history and biology, but her most important accomplishments were in the study of cephalopods and in the development of the apparatus needed for the study of these creatures in their natural environments. Villepreux-Power developed and employed several different aquariums and went to great efforts to see her findings published and her accomplishments acknowledged by her scientific contemporaries. This narrative not only features the compelling story of her life and work in vivid and accessible language, but also includes a helpful time line, glossary of key terms, index, source notes for each chapter, and suggestions for further reading. The frequent illustrations and feature insets provide important context for the main events in Villepreux-Power’s life.
VERDICT This life story of an important female pioneer in the sciences is highly recommended for middle and high school nonfiction collections.

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