A few weeks ago we discovered an ancestor we didn’t know we had. I say ‘we’ – Mum and Dad knew all about her, but our generation, my sister my brother and I, had no idea! And this really brought home to me the the importance of getting these extraordinary accounts of family history written down for future generations, and well, also just because they are brilliant and inspirational. So this is where I will begin, on International Women’s Day, with a truly inspirational and exceptional women who also happens to be an ancestor of ours. Her name is Anna Atkins and she was a mighty girl the likes of whom you may find in Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, Little People – Big Dreams or some other totally inspiring book aimed at showing the little girls of today that anything is possible.
Anna Atkins was born on 16th March 1799 in Tonbridge. She was a botanist and photographer who created detailed botanical illustrations using the cyanotype photographic process, producing strikingly beautiful blue and white images. She was elected as a member of the London Botanical Society in 1839. Her book, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions first published in 1843 was the first book ever to be illustrated using photography!! Yes that’s right – our amazing ancestor was the first person… EVER … to create and publish a book using photography… AND I had never even heard of her! She is also thought to be the first women ever to create a photograph – also pretty brilliant! She went on to publish even more books, produce more and more beautiful cyanotype images and do more important work in the field of botany.
She was an artist and a scientist! She has a blue plaque, wikipedia entry and books written about her! Her work is all over pinterest and has been the subject of a number of exhibitions and articles! It has even been made into wallpaper! Copies of her photograms can be found in The Science Museum! Google her, she’s awesome! Our very own super women for International Women’s Day – Anna Atkins.