Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

TO hide her identity from the men around her, she docked her hair, bound her breasts so tightly she could hardly breathe and gritted her teeth against starvation and seasickness for 18 months at sea.

For all these trials, the passage of nearly 250 years has relegated Jeanne Baret's story to a curious historical footnote: in the mid-18th century, on an expedition ship led by famous French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, Baret hid her gender and became the first woman known to circumnavigate the globe.

Until recently, that was where Baret's place in history began and ended. But in her second book, British academic Glynis Ridley scoured fragments of historical evidence to uncover a deeper tale: one of a poor but brilliant French herb-woman who, working alongside the prominent man she loved, left a lasting mark on modern botany.

The book: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret - A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe by Glynis Ridley

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