Charlotte de Bernier Taylor was one of the earliest American women field entomologists. She spent years observing and drawing insects. However, since Taylor published in the popular press rather than in scientific journals, her work went largely unrecognized.
The eldest daughter of William and Julia (Bernard) Scarbrough, Taylor was born in 1806 in Savannah, Georgia. Her father was a planter and merchant. He was famous for having sent the first steamship across the Atlantic in 1819. Taylor received her education at Madame Binze's, a fashionable school in New York City, where she became fluent in several languages. Following graduation, Taylor toured Europe. Returning to Savannah in 1829, she married James Taylor, a partner in the mercantile firm of Low, Taylor & Company. The couple had two daughters and a son. Charlotte Taylor's first published writings, in 1853 and 1854, were in a Boston magazine for children, during a period when Taylor was staying in New England.
From an early age, Taylor had been interested in insects, and she read widely, teaching herself entomology and other sciences. In her 30s, as a wealthy woman of leisure, Taylor resumed her entomological studies. She acquainted herself with the current agricultural and zoological literature and, using a powerful magnifying glass and a microscope, she began studying the insects that lived on cotton and wheat crops, the major Georgia plantation products. After 15 years of observing and drawing insects, Taylor began publishing her work in popular journals. "Microscopic Views of the Insect World," appeared in the American Agriculturist. About 20 of her articles, including "Insects Belonging to the Cotton Plant" were published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Taylor's writings were much in demand. They included detailed studies of the anatomy and natural history of silkworms and spiders, and she predicted the revival of the silk-producing industry in the United States. Taylor promoted methods for controlling agricultural pests at a time when most agriculturalists were concerned only with soil conditions and were ignorant of entomology. Her articles, written in a popular, literary style, included drawings, etchings, and paintings that were prepared with the assistance of her daughters, Virginia and Agnes.
With the approach of the Civil War, Taylor moved to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. She died there of tuberculosis in 1861, while working on a romance, a portrait of plantation life, and several new entomological articles.
Selected Writings by TaylorPeriodicals
- "The Unwelcome Guest of Insects." Harper's New Monthly Magazine (September 1858).
- "Microscopic Views of the Insect World." American Agriculturist (1858- 59, 1860).
- "Insects Belonging to the Cotton Plant." Harper's New Monthly Magazine (June 1860).
- Bailey, Martha J. American Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary. Denver: ABC-CLIO, 1994.
- Malone, Dumas, editor. Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. 18. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936.
- The National Cyclopadia of American Biography. Vol. 2. New York: James T. White & Co., 1899.
- Siegel, Patricia Joan and Kay Thomas Finley. Women in the Scientific Search: An American Bio-bibliography, 1724-1979. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1985.