The Victorian Naturalist: Beatrix Potter’s Garden

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle - Copyright Frederick Warne & Co, 2004

Mrs Tiggy-Winkle © Copyright Frederick Warne & Co, 2004

While on vacation with her family, Beatrix drew many forms of wildlife including bugs, spiders and butterflies. She and her brother Bertram collected specimens and took them home to London to examine. She used a microscope to record the smallest details. Beatrix lived near to London’s Natural History Museum and often visited to study the cases of insect samples.

At the age of 21 she began the first serious work of her life, a scientific study of fungus. She worked at this for thirteen years and eventually developed a theory on the germination of spores which is today recognised as being ahead of its time.

A scientific paper, On the Germination of the Spores of Agaricineae, by Miss Helen B Potter, was delivered to the Linnean Society of London in 1897. She was unable to present it herself, as ladies were not allowed to go to the Society’s meetings. Despite all her research and innovative work, the findings were rejected by the scientific establishment of the day.

Though she maintained an active interest in the subject, Beatrix began to channel more and more energy into the little stories she had begun to write. She used her skills as a naturalist in her children’s books.

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Natural History Museum|
The Linnean Society of London|