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Author photo. Anna Atkins, 1861. Wikimedia Commons.

Anna Atkins, 1861. Wikimedia Commons.

Anna Atkins (1799–1871)

Author of The Colonel: A Story of Fashionable Life

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Anna Atkins, née Children, was born in Tonbridge, Kent, England, a daughter of John George Children, a noted scientist, and his wife Hester. Her mother died as a result of her birth, and Anna grew up close to her father. He provided her with an unusually thorough, scientific education for a girl of her time. She was especially interested in botany and made detailed engravings of shells that were used to illustrate her father's translation of Jean-Baptiste de Monet Lamarck's Genera of Shells. (1823). In 1825, she married John Pelly Atkins, a West India merchant, and moved with him to his family home in Sevenoaks, Kent. Her father served as secretary of The Royal Society, and through him she met pioneer photographers William Henry Fox Talbot and Sir John Herschel. She learned about the photographic process then being invented and had access to a camera by 1841. She is often said to be the first female photographer and the first to demonstrate that photography could be both useful to science and pleasing to look at. She used early photography (cyanotype) to record all the specimens of algae found in the UK, publishing British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, in 1843, the first of several volumes. She also produced Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns (1854), possibly with her friend Anne Dixon.
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