Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 213–242 | Cite as

A Brief History of the Changing Occupations and Demographics of Coleopterists from the 18th Through the 20th Century

  • Scott A. EliasEmail author


Systematic entomology flourished as a branch of Natural History from the 1750s to the end of the nineteenth century. During this interval, the “era of Heroic Entomology,” the majority of workers in the field were dedicated amateurs. This article traces the demographic and occupational shifts in entomology through this 150-year interval and into the early twentieth century. The survey is based on entomologists who studied beetles (Coleoptera), and who named sufficient numbers of species to have their own names abbreviated by subsequent taxonomists. In the eighteenth century, 27 entomologists achieved this level of prominence, of whom 37% were academics, 19% were doctors, 11% had private incomes, 19% were clergymen, and 8% were government officials. Many of those with private incomes were members of the European aristocracy, and all but one were European men. The nineteenth century list included 192 entomologists, of whom 17% were academics, 16% were museum curators, 2% were school teachers, 15% were doctors, 6% were military men, 7% were merchants, 2% were government entomologists, 6% had private incomes, 5% were clergymen, 5% were government officials, and 4% were lawyers. The demographics of entomology shifted dramatically in the nineteenth century. Whereas many of the noteworthy entomologists of the eighteenth century were German, Swedish, or French, in the nineteenth century, many more European countries are represented, and almost one-fifth of the noteworthy entomologists were from the United States. The nineteenth century list, like the eighteenth century list, contains no women. By the twentieth century, 63% of 178 noteworthy systematic entomologists were paid professionals, teaching entomology courses in universities, or studying insect taxonomy in museums and government-sponsored laboratories. Only one person on the twentieth century list had a private income, but women (ten individuals) were included on the list for the first time.


History of entomology Demographics Occupations Amateurs Professionals 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography Department, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEghamUK

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