Happy birthday to Beatrix Potter, born on July 28, 1866 in London, England. Beatrix Potter is one of the most beloved children’s authors and illustrators of all time, but did you know that she was also a scientific illustrator, a botanist, and a conservationist? Her love of nature grew from the time she spent in Scotland and the Lake District of Northwest England, where she painted and drew landscapes, plants and animals.
Beatrix Potter was particularly interested in fungi; she studied them at the Royal Botanical Gardens and produced hundreds of detailed botanical drawings. She even developed a theory of how their spores reproduce and wrote a paper titled “On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae.” Although her paper would remain unpublished, her studies and illustrations of fungi made her well-respected in the field of mycology.
Potter’s most popular book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, began as a letter written to her former governess’s son. She finished writing the story and self-published it when it was rejected by several publishers. They reconsidered when The Tale of Peter Rabbit was a success and it was officially published in 1902. Beatrix Potter also found success in terms of licensing her creations; she registered a Peter Rabbit doll at the patent office, making it the oldest licensed literary character in the world. She created and licensed board games, a tea set, and other toys, and of course, continued writing and illustrating children’s books.
In 1905, Potter purchased Hill Top Farm in the Lake District and later purchased 15 farms to help preserve the country landscape. When she died in 1943, she left 4000 acres of land to England’s National Trust and is credited with preserving much of the land that is now the Lake District National Park.
You’re probably familiar with Beatrix Potter’s children’s books, but if you’d like to learn more about her remarkable life as a botanist and conservationist, borrow one of these books from our catalog.