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About the Department

History | Description of the Collections | Library | Visitor Accomondations | Staff | Volunteers | Research


The Department was established in 1862 with the appointment of Hans Hermann Behr as Curator, a position he held for 24 years (1862-67, 1882-86, 1892-1904). In the intervening years through 1904, the following entomologists served as curators for varied periods: E. S. Clark, Georg W. Dunn, Henry Edwards, Charles Fuchs, and Richard H. Stretch. Since 1905, the curatorial staff has included: Edwin C. Van Dyke (1905-1952), Charles Fuchs (1912-1914), Edward P. Van Duzee (1916-1940), Edward S. Ross (1939-1980; Chairman 1941-68), Edward L. Kessel (1945-1959), Hugh B. Leech (1947-1975), Paul H. Arnaud, Jr. (1959-present; Chairman 1968-1978, 1988-1990, Acting Chairman Jan - June 1994).


Today there are four full time curators in Entomology, including David H. Kavanaugh (1974-present; Chairman 1979-1983, 1990-1992, 1996-1998); Wojciech J. Pulawski (1983-present; Chairman 1983-1987, 1992-1993, 1998 - 2001, 2007- to date); Charles E. Griswold (1992-present; Chairman July 1994 - July 1996; 2001-2004); and Brian L. Fisher (2000-present; Chairman 2004-2007).

Other entomologists were full-time, part-time, or temporary employees during the last 60 years, and among these are: Frank R.Cole, J. Wagener Green, Hartford H. Keifer, J. O. Martin, C. Don MacNeill, Thomas J. Zavortink, David C. Rentz, Robert X. Schick, and Robert L. Usinger. Notable individuals who have helped the Department extensively as volunteers in past years include Frank E. Blaisdell, Sr., Francis X. Williams, Rev. Edward Guedet, J.Linsley Gressitt, Edwin R. Leach, and E. Gorton Linsley.

The first insects and arachnids for the Academy's collection were received in 1854. By 1900, the collection had grown to about 50,000 specimens (including types of 350 species) through donations and Academy expeditions. The fire which followed the 1906 earthquake destroyed most of it, but the types of 264 Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Hymenoptera species were saved. The Academy had sponsored an expedition to the Galapagos Islands in early 1905, with F. X. Williams as expedition entomologist. When the earthquake struck, the expedition had not yet returned to San Francisco. Thus, the specimens saved from the fire and others collected by Williams and other expedition members served as the nucleus of the Academy's new collection. The 4,000 insects collected by Williams served as the basis of the study of Galapagos entomofauna for the following 50 years. Subsequent growth of the collection from its low point in 1906 to its present size and condition is discussed below, under Description of the Collection.

In July 2004, the Academy moved to its temporary location in the South of Market District of San Francisco. The New Academy is scheduled to reopen in Golden Gate Park in 2008.

Description of the Collections

The collection of the California Academy of Sciences is one of the four largest entomology collections in North America. It contains about 10,000,000 curated specimens, representing all orders, nearly all families, and approximately 250,000 species of insects, myriapods, and arachnids. Taxonomic strengths of the collection reflect the past and present research interests of the curators, including Coleoptera (beetles), Embiidina (web spinners), Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), Neuropteroida and Arachnida (spiders). Geographic strengths of the collection include western North America, Baja California, the Galapagos Islands, western South America, the Philippines, the Indo-Australian region, Africa, and most recently Madagascar.

The Department of Entomology maintains two databases of the arthropod collections, the Type Collection Database and the Insect Collection Database, both of which are searchable online.

Library Facilities

Over 14 rows of double-sided shelving organizes the Entomology reprint collection.

Visitor Accommodations

Workspace for visiting scientists and students is available in the prep area and at the Automontage station in the Wet Lab.


Administration of the department is the responsibility of the deparment chairman, a position which rotates among the staff Curators for terms of approximately two years each. At present, the department has a paid staff of 16 persons, including four Curators, a Collections Manager, a departmental secretary, and 6 Curatorial Assistants (1 working offsite). Various duties are performed by part-time and volunteer staff.  A current list can be accessed on our personnel page.

In addition, two Curatores Emeriti (Drs. Paul H. Arnaud, Jr. and Edward S. Ross), one Research Associate (Dr. Thomas S. Briggs) and one Associate (Mrs. Helen K.Court) have permanent working places in the Department and actively participate in departmental activities as regular visitors. A long time Research Associate was Dr. C. Don MacNeill (deceased). Other research associates with more periodic interaction with the department include: Rolf Aalbu, William F. Barr, Harry Brailovsky, John A. Chemsak, John T. Doyen, Eric M. Fisher, Alan R. Hardy, Michael F. Irwin, Charles W. O'Brien, Lois B. O'Brien, John T. Polhemus, Evert I. Schlinger, Harvey I. Scudder, William D. Shepard, W. David Sissom, Edward L. Smith, Ward B. Watt, David B. Weissman, Stanley C. Williams, and Thomas J. Zavortink. Associates include: Helen K. Court, Patrick R. Craig, John E. Lattke and Robert W. L. Potts


The number of volunteers varies greatly from year to year, and so does their professional experience. Some are comparable to curators in their professional skills, while others are totally untrained. We receive help through the Academy's Volunteers' Office for various tasks, from simple chores (mounting unit trays, refilling naphthalene in insect drawers, labeling specimens under supervision, etc.) to more sophisticated activities such as pinning and sorting insects, curating the collection). The Department's volunteers contribute an approximate equivalent of one full-time position, but the availability of this important resource is often unpredictable.


Research activities of Curators and the Collections Manager are noted under their respective curricula vitarum. Research by our Curator Emeritus and resident departmental associates and curatorial support staff, working on their own time, include systematic and biogeographic studies of Embiidina (Ross), Hesperiidae (MacNeill (deceased)), Araneae (Ubick), Opiliones (Briggs and Ubick), Pseudoscorpiones (Lee), and Scorpiones (Williams, Lee, and other associates).

Last Updated August 2008