Villepreux-Power, Jeanne

Marine Biologist [Naturalist], (1794-1871)

Jeanne Villepreux was born in a French village (Juillac) in 1794. She walked to Paris where she was a brillant dressmaker's assistant. Through her fame for creating a princess' wedding suit, she met a rich and noble Englishman and merchant, in Sicily, James Power. They were married in 1818, in Messina and lived in Sicily for 20 years. The shoemaker's daughter became soon a naturalist, fully self taught, and she was first (1832) to create and use aquariums for experimentation in aquatic environments. She authored Observations et experiences physicque sure plusieurs animaux marins et terrestres as well as several other papers. She studied fossil shells and the humble mollusk as well as argonaut shells and is perhaps most famous for inventing the aquarium. She invented three kinds: one of glass to study live mollusks (classic aquarium); another also of glass surrounded by a cage submerged in the sea to study small mollusks, and a third kind of cage for larger mollusks which could be sunk and anchored at a given depth in the sea. She carried on her work at Messina in Sicily. She has been long forgotten, but at last is now coming to the attention of scholars. She was, from 1832 - 1842, the only woman in the Catania Accademia and a correspondent member of the London Zoological Society (plus 16 other academies).

As early as 1858 she was recognized by Prof. Richard Owen as the "mother" of aquariophily. Her writings can been found in leading Natural History libraries. She wrote several books and the Historical Society of Messina just republished her "Guida per la Sicilia"; a brillant and erudite inventory of the Island environment. She was famous all through Europe for her works on the Argonauta argo shell. Her works are in the main European Natural History librairies. She is mentioned in a French book from 1899 about the women in Science: "Les femmes dans la science" by Alphonse Rebiere. Her name, "Villepreux-Power, " was given to a very important crater on Venus (Project Magellan). The complete list of the selected women for Venus nomenclature is at for the names of Patera (irregular craters) and at for regular craters.

This information was submitted by
Claude Arnal of France

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