Focus: Insects -History

Eric Smith, Harry Nelson, Hank Dybas, John Kethley, Rupe Wenzel, and Larry Watrous circa. 1980.

Insects have been part of The Field Museum’s collections since its start in 1893. From the founding of the museum until 1901, the insect collections were under the care of Edward B. Chope, a preparator of the Department in Zoology who worked until 1907. The first Assistant Curator hired with responsibility for a specific animal group was William J. Gerhard, appointed in Entomology in 1901. Albert B. Wolcott was hired as a preparator in 1908 and worked until 1914 followed by John Emil Liljeblad who started as a preparator and was promoted to Assistant Curator in 1936. Liljeblad was replaced by Rupert L. Wenzel in 1940. Wenzel, who retired in 1981, continued to served The Field Museum as an active Curator Emeritus for 25 years. In 1941, Henry S. Dybas joined the staff as an assistant, and moved to Assistant Curator status in 1946. Dybas retired to become Curator Emeritus in 1980. Harry Hoogstraal was Assistant Curator of Insects from 1947-48. Hoogstraal continued a strong association with the Museum through his field collections for many divisions.

After fifty years in the Insect Division, Curator Gerhard retired to become Curator Emeritus in 1950. Harry Nelson joined the staff and worked as a summer curator (1951-1958) and continued his association with the division until 2006. Additions to the curatorial staff in 1970 included the Assistant Curator appointment of John Kethley. Three Staphylinidae specialists joined the division in the 1980’s starting with the appointment of Larry Watrous as Assistant Curator (1980-1984). Steve Ashe (1982-1988) and Alfred Newton (1985-2008) began in the division as Assistant Curators as well, and later were individually promoted to Associate Curator. The appointment in 1995 of Bill Ballard (1995-2001) brought in a research program focused on molecular phylogenetics and evolution. In 1999, Paul Goldstein (1999-2005) became Assistant Curator in the Insect Division. In 2000, the Zoology Department established tenure-track positions for long-time Adjunct Curators in Insects, Petra Sierwald and Margaret Thayer. Both are now Associate Curators who study the evolution and taxonomy of poorly known arthropod groups. In 2007 Corrie Saux Moreau was hired as Assistant Curator.