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AQUARIUM: How Jeannette Power Invented Aquariums to Observe Marine Life

Biography of a Woman Scientist

In 1818, Jeannette Power, a young French woman moved to Sicily and fell in love with the Mediterranean Sea and the Argonauta Argo octopus, the weirdest octopus on Earth.

Amazing weird fact: The Argonaut octopus creates a delicate shell for itself which it uses to travel up and down in the water and as a safe place to raise its young.

At the time, though, the only way to study a marine animal was if it was dead on land. That wasn’t good enough. Jeannette wanted to study this creature alive. She had many questions: did it create its own shell, how did it reproduce, what did it eat, and did it know she was watching? She knew that careful observation was the only way to answer her questions.

Follow Jeannette on her quest for answers about one of the most mysterious marine animals on Earth.

Who Was Jeannette Villepreux Power?

French marine biologist and inventor Jeannette Villepreux Power (1794-1871) lived on the island of Sicily, where she studied marine animals. When she wanted to directly observe living marine animals, she invented the aquarium. This allowed her to study the Argonauta argo octopus. The weirdest octopus on earth, this is the only octopus that creates its own shell.

Important Facts About Jeannette Villepreux Power

  • Power began her working life as a seamstress creating a wedding dress for royalty.
  • When she married James Power, they moved to Sicily, where Jeannette studied the Argonauta argo octopus.
  • Power owned several martens as pets, and they were allowed to sleep in her bed.
  • Power sent her specimen cabinet and papers back to France, but the ship sank. She lost almost all the documentation for her work.


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