Elizabeth Gould - Scientist of the Day
Elizabeth Gould, an English artist, was born July 18, 1804. In 1829, she married John Gould, an up-and-coming ornithologist, and Elizabeth immediately became the official family draughtswoman, finishing John’s rough drawings and executing the lithographs for the Century of Birds from the Himalaya Mountains (1830-32), and The Birds of Europe (1833-37). Although John gave Elizabeth full artistic credit in the Century, he became increasingly reluctant to share the limelight in later publications, so that, for example, Elizabeth receives almost no acknowledgement in the bird volume of Darwin’s Zoology of the Beagle (1841), although she did all the drawings and lithographs.
Elizabeth went to Australia with John in 1838 (leaving her 3 youngest children behind) and spent two years there, capturing the local birds and mammals on paper. John and Elizabeth returned to England in 1840, but sadly, Elizabeth died of puerperal fever in 1841, after giving birth to their eighth child. She was only 37 years old. All of her Australian paintings were lithographed and eventually published in such volumes as The Mammals of Australia (1863), but she received no credit at all for these posthumous publications.
The images show the crimson horned pheasant from Century of Birds, the blue roller from Birds of Europe, and the cactus finch from the Zoology of the Beagle,as well as a portrait of Elizabeth in a private collection.
Elizabeth was one of 12 women artists featured in the Library’s 2005 exhibition, Women’s Work. All of the volumes mentioned here are in the Library’s History of Science Collection.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City