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Faces of Science: Miriam Rothschild

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Mariana Cook’s book , “Faces of Science,” portrays 77 scientists who have made many of the most important discoveries of our time. Each photograph is accompanied by a personal essay written by the scientists. The portraits in this online series are accompanied by excerpts from those essays. For more information, please visit Mariana Cook’s website: .

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Faces of Science:  Miriam Rothschild-miriam_
Miriam Rothschild - Photos and Text ©Mariana Cook “Faces of Science”

Naturalists are born and not made. I loved insects, particularly ladybirds, which I began to collect at the age of five years old, but my development into a so-called scientist was due entirely to the influence of my father, who was himself a first-class scientist and who discovered the flea vector of a plague. He studied fleas and butterflies in his spare time, although he was a full-time banker.

In our home, natural history was not a subject – it was a way of life. My father was also very gifted in the way he treated his children. For instance, when he himself went out collecting material, whether it was plants or caterpillars, he took me along as well and treated me as if I were a contemporary, not a child playing with toys. As early as the age of five or six, I was counting the spots on the forewing of ladybirds, and could already tell the difference between the small tortoise-shell butterfly and comma.

Any group of animals I happened to come into contact with, I have always wanted to study…The study of butterflies is, in a sense, the gateway to the entire natural world, and it can bring great satisfaction to all those who are lucky enough to be born with the necessary gene for scientific curiosity.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.