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Aspidium denticulatum, Jamaica

Like her father, the British chemist, mineralogist, and zoologist John George Children, Anna Atkins had an interest in science, particularly botany. Her area of specialty was British plants. She was introduced to Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel—two of the early practitioners of photography—through her father, who had retired from the British Museum to live with his daughter in 1839, the same year that photography was introduced.

In 1843, Atkins published British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, the first scientific manual to be printed using photographic images to replace traditional typesetting and hand-drawn illustrations. Atkins turned to photography because, as she said, "the difficulty of making accurate drawings of objects as minute as many of the Algae and Conferva, has induced me to avail myself to John Herschel's beautiful process of Cyanotype, to obtain impressions of the plants themselves, which I have pleasure in offering my botanical friends." Atkins is believed by some scholars to be the first woman to produce a photograph.

Anna Atkins
English, 1799–1871
Aspidium denticulatum, Jamaica, Plate from Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns
1854
Cyanotype
Image/sheet: 13 x 9 9/16 in. (33.0 x 24.3 cm); mount: 19 x 14 ¾ in. (33.0 x 24.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 82.9.5