Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z for Zoologist, Phythias: Female Scientists Before Our Time

And so, we come to the end of the A to Z, to one of the least documented of the women in this series, Phythias the Elder, the first wife of Aristotle. Born sometime around 344 BC, Phythias was the niece and adopted daughter of King Hermias of Atarneus, an ancient Greek city in Asia Minor near the island of Lesbos. Today this would be on the west coast of Turkey.

King Hermias’s rule extended from Atarneus to the city of Assos, where Aristotle had opened an academy. In addition to being a great philosopher, Aristotle was a practicing botanist, zoologist and marine biologist. He and Hermias became friends, which is how Aristotle met and eventually married eighteen-year-old Phythias. Aristotle was thirty-seven.


The two honeymooned on the island of Lesbos in the port city of Mytilene on the Agean Sea. Apparently, Phythias was a budding embryologist, biologist and zoologist. The honeymooners spent time collecting living specimens of every sort. Although sources are sketchy and some doubtful, one source claims that Phythias was Aristotle’s “assistant” in research. She had her own collection of manuscripts and some claim she was the first female marine zoologist. As coauthor (uncredited) she collaborated with Aristotle on two works for an encyclopedia of animals: History of Animals and On the Parts of Animals and On the Generation of Animals.


Phythias and Aristotle had one daughter, Phythias the Younger. After only ten years of marriage Phythias died around 326 BC, leaving Aristotle to raise a daughter alone. He then remarried and had a son, but his love for Phythias lasted a lifetime. When he died in his sixties, he requested their bones be buried together, as had also been requested by Phythias. 







 Source:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/11/141130-aristotle-natural-history-seashells-biology-philosophy/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythias;  Anthony Kenny. A New History of Western Philosophy, Vol. 5, 2007.
Elisabeth Brooke. Women Healers: Portraits of Herbalists, Physicians, and Midwives, 1995 p. 12.
Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie, Joy Dorothy Harvey. The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z, 2000.
http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/People/Aristotle/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assos

18 comments:

  1. A very detailed account of yet another remarkable lady.
    It has been a pleasure reading throughout April your post and I do so
    appreciate the visit's you made to me. Thank you for your support Sharon.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Thank you. It has likewise been a pleasure. Your posts were delightful!

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  2. A fascinating lady! And so nice that this pair of scientists spent their first days together doing science. "Look what I found, darling!" "Ooh, how exciting! Let's look at it. We'll name it after you..."

    Thanks, Sharon, it has been an enjoyable month of women in science. Perhaps some time, just as a post in its own right, you might consider Hildegard of Bingen, the Sybil of the Rhine, the terror of senior clergy, musician, composer, playwright and - scientist!

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    1. I love your live diologue :) Ah yes, more ladies in history to explore. The list is endless isn't it? Thanks Sue for your many visits and interesting comments!

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  3. And so we come to the end - thanks Sharon so much for your always well researched, interesting and enjoyable posts.

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    1. Thank you. It's been enjoyable, even if exhausting. Your posts were thought provoking as usual.

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  4. Congratulations on completing the A2Z challenge, you did an excellent job and I was delighted to read many of your posts in your series. It's been a bit of whirl wind to keep up with everyone but I made a descent try and keeping up. Have a great week!

    Art Sketching Through the Alphabet “Z”

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    1. I appreciated your visits and cute drawings. Thanks!

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  5. Hi Sharon - well done on Phythias and how lovely Aristotle remained devoted to her ... it would be lovely if we could know exactly what all these great scientists did ... but at least some basic information is held by the modern world ... congratulations on a grand A-Z .. cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/we-are-world-in-darkness-be-light-2.html

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    1. It was pretty basic information. I had to piece it together, so not confident it's all that accurate. Thanks for being so supportive, Hilary!

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  6. Congratulations on finishing the A to Z. Your posts were very interesting and I learned a lot.

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    1. Thank you, Denise! You too had an interesting theme. Just sorry I couldn't visit more often.

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  7. You had a good series for your theme. Congratulations on finishing another Challenge. Thanks for being a part of the 2017 A to Z.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  8. Thanks, Arlee! It felt different this year seeing such low numbers when posting. Even so, I had plenty to do keeping up. I feel honored this was my 5th year!

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  9. I came here to see if you had put up a reflection, but instead post here. I have so enjoyed your series, and to learn about all those fantastic women, most I had never heard of.

    Congratulations on making it through to Z!

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    1. Thank you Sylvia and congratulations to you too! Nice to get to know you more :)

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  10. This is a beautiful story. I have never thought about Aristotele's family life, how odd. And I find it very nice that his wife was not only a life companion, but also a fellow researcher.
    Thanks so much for sharing this story, it's a perfect conclusion to your challenge.

    And I know I'm very late, but congratulation on completing the challenge. Really really liked your theme, so different and unique. I learnd so many things I've never heard of.

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    1. Thank you! I like the little love story it told. It was hard keeping up with everyone during the challenge. I couldn't read all but was happy to read some of yours at least. I always learn so much!

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