This Day In History: 1715-02-11

Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, was born on this day. She was a British aristocrat, the richest woman in Britain, and a collector of natural history objects. She amassed the largest natural history collection in the country which, unlike many similar contemporary ones was well-curated, with naturalist John Lightfoot, and the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander on her staff, she drew and recorded its specimens, sorting them innovatively in type species. Her collection included costly art objects such as the Portland Vase. When the collection was sold at auction in 1786 after her death, Lightfoot wrote in the introduction to the auction catalogue that it was her, “… intention to have had every unknown species in the three kingdoms of nature described and published to the world”.

Margaret Bentinck is honoured in the genus name Portlandia.