Lucy Say

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Fulgur pyruloides Plate XIX by Lucy Say in "American conchology; or, Descriptions of the shells of North America". [1]

Lucy Way Sistare Say (October 14, 1801 – November 15, 1886) was an American naturalist and nature artist. Say illustrated and colored 66 of 68 plates which became American Conchology, a depiction of the North American mollusks collected by her husband, Thomas Say, during his expeditions in North America. Lucy Say became the first female member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia on October 26, 1841.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in New London, Connecticut, Say was one of ten children born to Joseph and Nancy Way Sistare. Her first known education was at a Pestalozzian girls' school in Philadelphia, operated by Marie Duclos Fretageot. She was taught to draw mainly by French naturalist/illustrator Charles Alexandre Lesueur and minimally by John James Audubon. She met her future husband, Thomas, through other artists and naturalists at the Fretageot school.[1]


Lucy and Thomas Say married on January 4, 1827, and moved with other naturalists affiliated with the Fretageot school to the utopian socialist community of New Harmony, Indiana, established by Robert Owen. While Thomas went on explorations, Lucy sometimes taught children in the community, which provided a social freedom for Say rare in those days.[1]

After Thomas died in 1834, Say returned to New York City, where her mother and sister lived.[2] She took on the task of illustrating and coloring his life's work. She learned engraving to assist the engraver with whom she worked on American Conchology, which she continued when the engraver died. All told, Say assisted with three volumes on insects of America and six volumes on shellfish of North America.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Lucy Say Illustrations". Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  2. ^ Joy Harvey and Marilyn Ogilvie. Lucy Say. The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science. 2. Marilyn Ogilvie and Joy Harvey (editors). New York and London: Routledge. p. 1155. ISBN 978-0-415-92040-7. 

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