Mary Vaux Walcott bigraphy, stories - American scientific illustrator

Mary Vaux Walcott : biography

July 31, 1860 - August 22, 1940

Mary Morris Vaux Walcott (July 31, 1860 – August 22, 1940) was an American artist and naturalist known for her watercolor paintings of wildflowers.


She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a wealthy Quaker family. After graduating from the Friends Select School in Philadelphia in 1879, she worked at home and on the family farm. During this time she took an interest in watercolor painting, and began painting illustrations of wildflowers that she saw on family trips to the Rocky Mountains of Canada. She also became interested in glaciers at that time.

Walcott married the paleontologist Charles Doolittle Walcott, who was the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in 1914. She played an active part in her husband's projects, returning to the Rockies with him several times and continuing her hobby of painting the wildflowers there. In 1925 the Smithsonian published some 400 of her illustrations, accompanied by brief descriptions, in a five-volume work entitled North American Wild Flowers.

From 1927 to 1932 Walcott served on the federal Board of Indian Commissioners. She was elected president of the Society of Woman Geographers in 1933. In 1935, the Smithsonian published Illustrations of North American Pitcher-Plants, which included 15 paintings by Walcott.

Following the death of her husband in 1927, Walcott established the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal in his honor. It is awarded for scientific work on pre-Cambrian and Cambrian life and history. Walcott died in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.


A mountain, called Mount Mary Vaux, in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada is named after her. It is located at .

Works by Walcott

  • North American Wildflowers, 5 vols., pub. by the Smithsonian Institution, 1925, repub. 1988 ISBN 0-517-64269-7
  • 15 paintings in Illustrations of American Pitcherplants, pub. by the Smithsonian Institution, 1935
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