Tag Archives: Imms

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

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The Dead Entomologists Society

The late and the great: who are the most influential dead entomologists?

In the run-up to the Christmas holidays an ex-student of mine, Andy Salisbury, now at RHS Wisley, and I were discussing who were the most influential dead entomologists ever.  We had begun our discussion discussing Harold Maxwell-LeFroy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Maxwell-Lefroy, who among other claims to fame, was the first editor of Annals of Applied Biology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1744-7348 , the founder of Rentokil and former Professor of Entomology at Imperial College.  He was also famous for having killed himself accidentally whilst trying out a pesticide.

Lefroy conversation

Dead entomologists

Up until the early part of this century he was commemorated in the Biology Department at Imperial College’s Silwood Park Campus with a laboratory named after him; sadly with the move into the new Hamilton Building this no longer exists.

We agreed that the great Alfred Russel Wallace was the most influential entomologist of all time; we felt that claiming Darwin as an entomologist, although famous for his beetle collecting, and despite being a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, might be a step too far.  So after Wallace, who was the most influential dead entomologist?

I think that this depends on how you define influential – for entomologists of my generation and the one before us, i.e. those born between 1930 and 1960; Imms and Wigglesworth are probably the two who most influenced us mainly because they were our recommended undergraduate texts  (those were the days when you could do entomology  in the UK as an undergraduate);

Wigglesowrth & Imms compresed

today I guess these have been replaced by Chapman’s The Insects: Structure and Function and Gullan & Cranston’s Outline of Entomology.  But of course outside the field of entomology who remembers Imms and Wigglesworth?  So we should, I think, be looking for entomologists whose influence has extended more widely;  a slightly tongue in cheek contender would be Thomas Moufet,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Muffet who is possibly apocryphally, remembered for the nursery rhyme about his daughter Little Miss Muffett and more substantiated, for his compilation of the Theatre of Insects, but he was mainly a man of

Moufet book

medicine and more interested in spiders than insects in general.  A contender widely known outside the entomological world would be H W Bates, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Walter_Bates#Taxonomy who is today remembered in the term Batesian

Henry Walter Bates

mimicry  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimicry#Batesian ; as a former President of the Royal Entomological Society (1868-1869) I think that we can safely claim him as an entomologist.

Other entomologists that have had an influence  on the rest of the non-entomological world, albeit not widely known outside the biological or medical sciences are Fabre and his Lives of  various insects http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Henri_Fabre , Karl von Frisch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_von_Frisch for his work on honeybees, especially in deciphering the waggle-dance,  E B Ford for his work on ecological genetics and for inspiring Kettlewell’s work on Biston betularia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._B._Ford  and more recently Richard Southwood  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Southwood   (Methods in Ecology) but initially a Hemipteran specialist and Miriam Rothschild  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miriam_Rothschild for her work on a range of entomological subjects but very famously for her work on fleas.

The acid test of course, is how many living entomologists the man or woman in the pub can bring to mind when asked, let alone those that have joined the Dead Entomologist’s Society. Perhaps it is the fate of entomologists to be largely overlooked, much like the small but highly important organisms we work on 😉

I would dearly love to hear your thoughts on which the most influential dead entomologists are.  I am well aware, that my list is very Euro- and UK-centric.  So let’s see some nominations from the rest of the world, suitably justified of course!

Post script

Getting my vote as a contender for an American entomologist of great influence, albeit British-born, would be Charles Riley, sometimes known as the Father of Biological Control http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Valentine_Riley , but then again, who outside the world of entomology has heard of him?

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