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Jeanne Power: Female Marine Scientist who solved the mystery of the Paper Nautilus

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871) Scientific Aquarium inventor and Pioneer in live sea creature study.

Jeanne Villepreux-Power was a naturalist, marine biologist and inventor of the aquarium. Known as the mother of aquariophily, she pioneered the study of live sea creatures through the use of aquariums, as most other male scientists were using the bodies of dead animals. She is noted as the first to design and use three different aquariums during her studies. Her scientific contributions to the field of marine biology centered on her groundbreaking cephalopod research, specifically on Paper Nautilus. Jeanne Villepreux-Power is not very well know to us today. Women scientists were not encouraged during her time and the unfortunate loss of her research in a shipwreck contributed to her her story being forgotten to history until recently.

Association Jeanne Villepreux-Power Femme de science et artiste is a French organization dedicated to Jeanne Villepreus-Power's legacy and ensuring that more people learn about her and her important contributions to marine biology. The web site is in French, but is a must visit for links to primary source documents. (Google translate did a fair job in providing a gist translation of the information.)

There are currently limited english language resources available to lean about the life and legacy of Jeanne Power. The following resources are recommended for students and teachers. I would suggest students of all ages start with Secrets of the Sea by Evan Griffin. The information provided at the end of the book in "Jeanne's Life and legacy" pages is suitable for middle and high school readers. In addition to providing a bibliography list at the end of the book, the author has also given an explanation of how he dealt with the challenges of contradictions he found in his historical research.

Resources to learn more about Jeanne Power:

Biographical Book:

Author: Evan Griffith

Illustrator: Joanie Stone

Grades Level: Everyone 1-4 Reading level

Publisher Summary: The curiosity, drive, and perseverance of the nineteenth-century woman scientist who pioneered the use of aquariums to study ocean life are celebrated in this gorgeous, empowering picture book.

How did a nineteenth-century dressmaker revolutionize science? Jeanne Power was creative: she wanted to learn about the creatures that swim beneath the ocean waves, so she built glass tanks and changed the way we study underwater life forever. Jeanne Power was groundbreaking: she solved mysteries of sea animals and published her findings at a time when few of women’s contributions to science were acknowledged. Jeanne Power was persistent: when records of her research were lost, she set to work repeating her studies. And when men tried to take credit for her achievements, she stood firm and insisted on the recognition due to her.

Jeanne Power was inspiring, and the legacy of this pioneering marine scientist lives on in every aquarium.


Web resources:

Article from Smithsonian Magazine

Article from European Marine Biological Resource Centre (EMBRC)

French Language Resources

Website - Association Jeanne Villepreux-Power Femme de science et artiste Website:

Biographical information as well as primary sources, bibliography:

Biographical Information as well as scientific innovations of Jeanne Power:

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