History of Scientific Women

Main achievements: First woman in the New World to be distinguished as a botanist.

Jane Colden was an American botanist described as the "first botanist of her sex in her country" by Asa Gray in 1843. Contemporary scholarship maintains that she was the first female botanist working in America.

Colden was born in New York City, the fifth child of Cadwallader Colden, who was a physician who trained at the University of Edinburgh and became involved in the politics and management of New York after arriving in the city. She was educated at home and her father provided her with botanical training following the new system of classification developed by Carolus Linnaeus.

Between 1753 and 1758 Jane Colden catalogued New York's flora, compiling specimens and information on more than 300 species of plants from the lower Hudson River Valley, and classifying then according to the system developed by Linnaeus. She developed a technique for making ink impressions of leaves, and was also a skilled illustrator, doing ink drawings of 340. To many drawings she added pieces of folklore, suggesting medicinal uses for the plant. She went on to study the gardenia. Through her father she met and corresponded with many leading naturalists of the time, including Carolus Linnaeus. One of her descriptions of a new plant, which she herself called Fibraurea, was forwarded to Linnaeus with the suggestion that he should call it Coldenella, but Linnaeus refused and called it Helleborus (now Coptis groenlandica).

Colden's original manuscript describing the flora of New York is held in the British Museum. A plant sanctuary in her honor was established in the late 1990s at Knox's Headquarters State Historic Site in New Windsor, near where she lived and worked. She married Scottish widower Dr. William Farquhar on March 12, 1759. She died in childbirth only seven years later; the child also died in the same year. There is no evidence that she continued her botanical work after her marriage. The standard author abbreviation Colden is used to indicate this individual as the author when citing a botanical name.

Source: Wikipedia