The French botanist and explorer in 1766 departed France aboard the ship Étoile (Star) as part of an exploratory expedition and upon her return made history as the first woman to circle the globe.
Jeanne Baret was born on this day in 1740 in the historic town of Autun in central France. Thanks to a rural upbringing, she became adept at identifying plants and earned recognition as a local specialist in plant medicine. In the early 1760s, she began working for the noted botanist Philibert Commerson.
When France organized its first circumnavigation of the globe in 1765, Commerson was invited along as the group’s botanist. French laws barred women from navy ships, so in order to serve as his assistant, Baret dressed to appear as a man. The pair collected over 6,000 plant specimens during the voyage.
Today, many credit Baret alone for the European discovery of the now-famous bougainvillea vine while the crew was stopped in Brazil. Depicted in the Doodle artwork is a bougainvillea vine in bloom, wrapping around an inquisitive Baret aboard the Étoile.
Eventually, crewmembers discovered Baret had been dressing as a man in Tahiti, and she and Commerson ended their journey early on the island of Mauritius in 1768. Baret remained there for years before she finally returned to France, which marked the official completion of her circumnavigation.
In 2012, Baret was finally given a botanical honor that eluded her during her lifetime, when a newly discovered plant from the Solanum genus–which includes potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants–was given the species name baretiae.
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