Mary Ward was a scientist, microscopist and entomologist. Women could not at this time become a member of any learned societies or obtain any degrees or diplomas. So in 1857, when she decided to make her work public, she found it very difficult to find a publisher who would accept a woman's scientific work. As a result her first book "Sketches with the Microscope" was published privately. However, in the following year it was published by Groomsbridge of London, as "The World of Wonders as revealed by the Microscope"
The mid nineteenth century was a time of huge scientific advances and discoveries and the Victorians were expanding their visual imaginations to keep pace with the changing world. While William Rosse at Birr Castle was looking to the stars with the Leviathan Telescope, his wife Mary was experimenting with photography and their cousin Mary Ward was examining the minutiae of life through the microscope . At the same time, in Belgium, Joseph Plateau invented the first animation devise, the Stroboscope, which developed into the Zoetrope.
This Creative Ireland commissioned project has combined and expanded on these Victorian visual discoveries, and drawn on the tradition of Science as Performance, to celebrate the wonders of the Midland Bogs.
We have adapted Mary Ward's book" The Amazing World of Wonder through the Microscope", published in 1858,to steer a journey through the flora and fauna of the bog, illustrated with a projection of macro-photography by myself, Tina Claffey, and zoetrope animation by Caroline Conway, bringing old and new technologies together, and accompanied by specially commissioned music.
Each chapter of Mary Ward's book was written in the form of a letter detailing different aspects of her studies. These have been adapted by Brendan Ryan and will be read as a narration to the projection.
This project was first performed at the Mary Ward Heritage Centre, Ferbane, and has subsequently been shown as part of Science Week, at Banagher College, and at the Offaly Heritage Seminar.Most recently it was adapted as a projection in Birr Castle Courtyard, with narration by Lalla Ward, Great granddaughter of Mary Ward, as part of the Illuminate Herstory Festival.
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