Sarah Mary Fitton

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Sarah Mary Fitton
Bornc. 1796
Died30 March 1874 (aged 78)
Paris, France
Known forChildren's writer
Notable work
Conversations on Botany (1817)
Plate 2, Table of the Classes, Conversations on Botany

Sarah Mary Fitton (c. 1796 – 30 March 1874) was an Irish writer who had an interest in botany. She is most famous for her 1817 book Conversations on Botany.


Very little is known of Sarah Mary Fitton outside of her writing, though she is believed to have been born in Dublin.[1] She had one brother, William Henry Fitton, and two sisters, one of whom was Elizabeth (fl. 1817–1834). Fitton died in Paris on 30 March 1874 at 15 rue Ville l'Evêque.[2]

Writing and botanical work[edit]

Title page, Conversations on Botany

Fitton is known for co-authoring Conversations on Botany with her sister Elizabeth, first published in 1817.[1] Conversations on Botany went through nine editions between 1817 and 1840.[2] The book is composed of 18 conversations between a mother and her son that cover the principles of the Linnaean system of classification and elements of useful botany.[3] The book was illustrated with hand-coloured plates by George Sowerby. The early editions were published anonymously, though later editions show that the majority of the text was written by Fitton, assisted by Elizabeth. Co-authorship is often erroneously attributed to Maria Elizabetha Jacson or Jane Marcet.[2] It is credited, along with other contemporaneous works, with furthering the popularity of botany with women.[4] The sisters also wrote The Four Seasons in 1865.[1]

Later in life, Fitton wrote books and short stories for children, with some works being translated into French. She lived for a time in Paris, with her work drawing on her experiences there. Her last book was published in 1866.[2]

Whilst living in Paris, Fitton befriended John Kenyan, the Carmichael-Smyths, and Eugène Sue.[5] The Belgian botanist Eugène Coemans named a genus of perennial flowering shrubs Fittonia in honour of the Fitton sisters in 1865.[2][6]


  • Conversations on Botany (1817) - Science History Institute Digital Collections at (High-resolution scans of title page and 20 hand-colored plates from an 1817 printing).
  • Conversations on Harmony (1855)
  • Little By Little, A Series Of Graduated Lessons In The Art Of Reading Music (1863)
  • Four Seasons: a Short Account of the Structure of Plants (1865)

Further reading[edit]

  • Fussell, G. E (1951) 'Elizabeth and Sarah Fitton' Gardener's Chronicle, Vol. 130 (10 November 1951), pp 179–181.


  1. ^ a b c Praeger, Robert Lloyd (1949). Some Irish Naturalists: A Biographical Notebook. Dundalk: Dundalgan Press. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Torrens, H. S.; Browne, Janet (2004). "Fitton, William Henry (1780–1861)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  3. ^ Alt, Christina (2010). Virginia Woolf and the Study of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 9781139490368.
  4. ^ George, Sam (2011). "Epistolary Exchange: the Familiar Letter and the Female Botanist, 1760–1820" (PDF). Journal of Literature and Science. 4 (1). Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Sarah Mary Fitton". Dickens Journals Online. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  6. ^ Bercu, R.; Popoviciu, D.R. (2015). "Anatomy of Fittonia verschaffeltii (Lem.) Van Houtte (Acanthaceae)" (PDF). Annals of RSCB. XIX (2). Retrieved 30 May 2015.