Gifted: Helena Scott. Photo: Australian Museum
The Scott sisters were scientists 160 years ahead of their time.
Now their work from the 1850s and 1860s drawing and describing Australian moths and butterflies is showcased in a mobile phone app for the Australian Museum that connects the then with the now.
It wasn't unusual for 19th-century women to collect butterflies, and draw and paint, but the Scott sisters' level of expertise was highly unusual for their time, said Vanessa Finney, manager of archives with the museum.
Harriet Scott. Photo: Australian Museum
''They collected, they described, they drew and then they painted, so they were working scientists as well as artists.''
By using their brushes to capture the beauty of nature's curiosities they entered ''the male-dominated world of colonial science''.
So frustrated were they by 19th century attitudes towards women as scientists, Harriet wrote she clearly ''ought to have been Harry Scott instead of Hattie Scott.''
Artistry: A page of their work. Photo: Australian Museum
The app includes 100 handpainted images by the Scotts featuring 180 species of butterflies and moths. It was developed for the museum as part of a NSW government program to take state treasures, data and assets out of mothballs and museums.
By clicking on an insect in each image, the user is taken to current scientific data including details of where it can be found today, and records showing sightings since the Scott sisters first recorded it back in the 1850s and 1860s.
Peter Chen, vice-president of design with app developer Beaconmaker, said he tried to let the paintings speak for themselves: ''The painting is very delicate and beautiful as it is, so we took a minimal approach to interface design.''
The Scott sisters' work was also recognised internationally. On August 8, 1851, their work received a glowing review by a visiting British zoologist featured on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald .
They became the first and only women to receive honorary membership of the NSW Entomological Society, and in later life, after their father went bankrupt, they made a living illustrating books of natural history. One of the sisters, Helena, also meticulously dried and pressed more than 250 plant specimens that were used as a guide in the 1990s for the rehabilitation of the Kooragang Wetland near Newcastle.
The iPhone app, The Art of Science: Butterfly and Moth Paintings by the Scott Sisters, will be launched on Friday. An Android version, and the addition of a jigsaw puzzle for both versions of the app, will be released in about a month.