First steps towards an entomological career – A nostalgic reminiscence

Our new Freshers have now found their feet and most now no longer have to ask directions to buildings and lecture theatres. It came as a bit of a shock to me to suddenly realise that this time forty years ago I was in a similar position at Leeds University, although probably feeling somewhat more lost than our first year students because even then, Leeds was a big university (10 000 students; small compared with most universities now, but the biggest outside London then).   Then & Now Two weeks into term and I was experiencing my first ever entomology lectures – my degree was in a now extinct subject, Agricultural Zoology, which was essentially entomology and parasitology, with a strong agricultural slant. I still have the books that I bought in those first stumbling days (as Agrics we drank rather a lot) towards my career as a professional entomologist. Textbooks I note that I did not buy the two Entomological bibles of our day, Imms (A General Textbook of Entomology) and Wigglesworth (The Principles of Insect Physiology) until the following year; actually during the summer vacation so I must have been very keen and feeling quite rich  😉 I drank and read my way through undergraduate life managing to fit in an entomological expedition to Trinidad in 1975 where I reacquainted myself with the Caribbean insects that had first sparked my interest in entomology as a child in Jamaica. Drink & Trinidad I also discovered that, to quote the advertising posters all over the island,  “in Trinidad a beer is a Carib”!

A beer is a carib

Despite the beer, the sunshine and the exotic flora and fauna, 1975 was the year that I decided aphids were the most fascinating of all insects and what I wanted to work on when I graduated.  I also realised that you didn’t need to travel to exotic places to do interesting fieldwork and make new discoveries. Graduation & FieldworkEven with all the distractions of student life, I did graduate and went on to do a PhD working on cereal aphid ecology. PhD work

PhD work – A good job Health & Safety hadn’t been invented 😉

I had some great entomological lecturers as an undergraduate, all of whom helped me get to where I am today;  Brian Whittington, Noel Gibson, Edward Broadhead, Steve Sutton and the somewhat eccentric Dick Loxton who took us on our field course and introduced us to extreme sweep netting, something I still do to do this day! Extreme sweep netting References

Barnes, R.D. (1974) Invertebrate Zoology, 3rd Edition, W B Saunders & Co. Philadelphia

Barrington, E.J.W. (1967) Invertebrate Structure & Function, Nelson, London

Cox, F.E.G., Morton, J.E., Phillips Dale, R., Nichols, D., Green, J. & Wakelin, D. (1969) Practical Invertebrate Zoology, Sidgwick & Jackson, London

Grove, A.J. & Newell, G.E. (1969) Animal Biology, 8th Edition, University Tutorial Press Ltd. London Imms, A.D. (1947) Insect Natural History, Collins, London


Filed under EntoNotes, The Bloggy Blog

10 responses to “First steps towards an entomological career – A nostalgic reminiscence

  1. David Stanford-Beale

    The “somewhat eccentric Dick Loxton” (a perfect description) is still inspiring sweep netters! He’s the first honourary BUSE academic member after a series of brilliant lectures.
    We also had a very similar Carib advertisement poster in my grandmothers house as my father’s family lived in Trinidad for a good long while at a very similar time.
    Small world!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting to find out what attracts someone to Entomology and how you can become passionate about aphids. I was brought up to scream at, stamp on or spray all insect life. It has sadly taken me a lifetime to review my upbringing. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the hair back then 🙂 Thanks for telling your story in to entomology. Wish I’d known that even existed as a career when I was at school because I would have become one!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post – thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Di Hill (was Holmes)

    You must have graduated a year or two before me (1976-9). I remember all those lecturers, especially Dick Loxton, who asked me to look after his menagerie when he went away on holiday while we were cramming for exams. Apparently he always managed to find a sucker to do that! I spider-sat the red-kneed tarantula in the Zoology Dept, and also the pets at his house : squirrels, etc. I was rewarded with a praying mantis which I fed with bluebottles – stored in the fridge of our student house, much to my housemates’ disgust!!
    I was saddened to hear of Prof Lee’s passing a couple of years ago – he was a lovely man.


  6. Soo Hutt

    pleas can you giv me a current contact for Dick loxton pleas


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.