May 24, 2011 - Happy Birthday, Ynes Mexia

She was a social worker until age 51, when she decided to change her life.

And, boy, did she change it! 

Ynes Mexia became a botanist (a scientist who studies plants) and an explorer who discovered more than 500 species of plants!

It's estimated that she collected more than 137,000 plants in six expeditions over a period of just 13 years!

Ynes Mexia was born in Washington, D.C., on this day in 1870; her parents were Mexican, and her father probably worked for the Mexican embassy in the U.S. capital. She apparently didn't have a lot of formal education until she was 51 and started attending botany classes at the University of California at Berkeley. And the reason for the career change? Mexia discovered her love for plants while hiking with the Sierra Club.

Soon Mexia began to take botanical collecting trips in Mexico, Alaska, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, and the American Southwest.

Sadly, she experienced chest pains on a collecting trip in Mexico, and at age 67 she died of lung cancer. Still, she managed to find a passion, make a contribution, and see new sights at a time when some would have said she was “over the hill.”

1 comment: