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

Scott Elias

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Systematic entomology flourished as a branch of Natural History from the 1750s to the end of the 19th 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 20th 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 18th century: 33 entomologists were placed on this list, of whom 27% were academics, 21% were doctors, 15% had private incomes, 15% were clergymen, and 12% were government officials. Many of those with private incomes were members of the European aristocracy, and all were European men. The 19th century list included 207 entomologists, of whom 13% were academics, 12% were museum curators, 2% were school teachers, 13% were doctors, 5% were military men, 6% were merchants, 4% were government entomologists, 24% had private incomes, 3% were clergymen, 7% were government officials, and 3% were lawyers. The demographics of entomology shifted dramatically in the 19th century. Whereas many of the noteworthy entomologists of the 18th century were German, Swedish, or French. In the 19th century, many more European countries are represented, and almost one-fifth of the noteworthy entomologists were from the United States. The 19th century list, like the 18th century list, contains no women. By the 20th century, 75% of 150 noteworthy entomologists were paid professionals, teaching entomology courses in universities, or studying insect taxonomy in museums and government-sponsored laboratories. Only one person on the 20th century list had a private income, but women (ten individuals) were included on the list for the first time
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-242
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of the History of Biology
Issue number2
Early online date9 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • History of entomology, demographics, occupations, amateurs, professionals

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