Curator Emeritus

Department of Entomology
California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Dr., San Francisco, CA 94118 FAX: 415 321-8640 E-mail: eross@calacademy.org


Date and place of Birth: Sept. 1, 1915; Spokane, Washington, U.S.A.

Citizenship: U.S.A.


Linfield College, Oregon 1933-35
University of California, Berkeley,1935-37, B.S. in Entomology
University of California, Berkeley,1937-41, Ph.D. in Entomology


(a) Field Assistant in Agricultural entomology, U. of C. 1937 (summer)

(b) Teaching assistant in Entomology, U. of C. 1937-39

(c) Assistant in Charge to Curator and Chairman, Dept. of Entomology, California Academy of Sciences 1939-1980

(d) Lecturer and Research Associate, University of California, Berkeley, Part-time, taught Biology of Insects Ent 10) 1970-75.

(e) Curator of Entomology, Emeritus, California Academy of Sciences 1980 to date

Service World War II 1942-46: 1st Lt. - Major, U.S. Army Sanitary Corps, Commanding Officer of a malaria survey unit in New Guinea and Philippine combat zones. Specialized in mosquito-borne diseases and parasitology.


Long-neglected, mainly-tropical insects of the order Embiidina (Embioptera, web-spinners, foot-spinners) which are somewhat related to stoneflies, termites, and earwigs. I have concluded that this unique order evolved hundreds of millions of years ago in the tropical zones of the protocontinent Pangaea and there developed its remarkable specializations, as well as its major taxonomic groups. During 55 years of research I have visited most of the order's evolutionary centers (all equatorial continents) and continue to make trips to promising regions within these centers. To date my collection comprises about 300,000 specimens representing more than 1,000 species and an array of new "higher taxa" (suborders, families, genera, etc.).


Science education and popularization using thousands of color photographs taken during many expeditions throughout the tropics, and other regions.


Fellow, California Academy of Sciences (Fellows Medalist 1994)
Fellow, Entomological Society of America
Honored Member, Pacific Coast Entomological Society
Honorary Member, Mzuri Safari Club
Fellow, Explorers Club; member, South American Explorers Club
Fellow, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation
Research Associate in Entomology, University of California, Berkeley
Member of numerous conservation organizations.


1936 Southeastern Arizona- Motorized collecting trip (with Mont Cazier) during student period at University of California, Berkeley. 1 month.

1938 Baja California, Mexico- Roundtrip, Model A Ford to Cape San Lucas (with Dr. and Mrs. A. E. Michelbacher). 2 months

1941 Repeat of above (with Dr. G. E. Bohart). 2 months

1942-43 Texas- Off-duty fieldwork while an Army medical officer stationed at Ft. Sam Houston. 9 months

1944 New Guinea- Mosquito and tropical disease surveys while CO of 38th Malaria Survey Unit functioning in combat zone at Finschhafen and Maffin Bay (near Sarmi). March 24 - Oct. 16, 1944.

1944-45 Philippines- Same activities while serving in Leyte and Mindoro campaigns. Made an ethnographic study of Mangyans (a pagan hill tribe). Oct. 22, 1944 - Nov. 26, 1945.

1946 Mexico- Motor trip, Laredo to Acapulco. General insect collecting. 1 month.

1948 Mexico- Motor trip, Laredo to Nayarit, Colima, Acapulco, Oaxaca, Vera Cruz. 2 months.

1950-51 South America- Motor trip, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru (with Dr. and Mrs. A. E. Michelbacher). Collected insects during 8 months of travel.

1954-55 South America- Motor trip in Amazon drainage of Peru, also traveled in Ecuador and Colombia (with Dr. E. I. Schlinger). Collected and photographed insects. Financed in part by a Guggenheim grant in insect photography. 7 months.

1957-58 Africa- Motor trip across equatorial Africa (Congo River's mouth to Mombasa), central and southern Africa (with Mrs. Ross and Robin Leech). Collected and photographed insects. Partly supported by grants from National Geographic Society and San Francisco Foundation's Dietz Fund. 13 months.

1959-60 Madagascar- Insect collecting and photography, length of island. Later conducted fieldwork in Kenya and Ethiopia and studied Embiidina in European museums; 4 months.

1961 Mexico- Insect collecting and photography in northwest mainland localities (with Drs. Paul Arnaud and David Rentz). 1 month.

1961-62 Tropical Asia and Australia- Insect collecting and photography throughout India, Malaya, Thailand, and across Australia (David Q. Cavagnaro, assistant). Partly supported by NSF and National Geographic Society grants. 18 months.

1964 South America- By air and rented vehicles, collected in Trinidad, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. Photographed oil birds for National Geographic article; supported by grants from NSF and National Geographic magazine. 2 months.

1966 Africa- Motorized expedition through most west African countries, thence south to Cape Town via Cameroun, Angola, and Namibia (Kenneth Lorenzen, assistant). 6 months.

1967 Africa- Motorized expedition from Cape Town to Nairobi via Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia, and Tanzania (Alan Stephen, assistant). Collected insects and photographed nature. Partly supported by National Geographic magazine grant. 4 months.

1969-70 Africa- Toured Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and motored from Nairobi to Cape Town via Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, and Namibia (assisted by Mrs. Ross and Dr. M. Irwin).

        Asia - Returned to San Francisco from Africa via Lebanon, Afghanistan, Nepal, Laos, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan; making stopover fieldtrips. 8 months (including African portion).

1972 Africa- Motored from Cape Town to Nairobi via Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania (assisted by Mrs. Ross). 6 months.

1975 South America and Panama- Fieldwork in Amazon Basin, Venezuela, and Panama; 35 days.

1976 Mexico and Central America- Motor trip, San Francisco to Canal Zone (assisted by Mrs. Ross). 3 months.

1977 Mexico- Motorized expedition to Cape San Lucas, Baja California (assisted by Mrs. Ross). 1 month.

1978 Mexico- Motorized expedition in Sierra Madre Occidental (with H. Vannoy Davis). 1 month.

1978 Southeast Asia- Fieldtrips in Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Java, and Sumatra (assisted by Mrs. Ross). 2 months.

1980 Mexico- Motored to southern Mexico, especially Chiapas (assisted by son, Clark). 6 weeks .

1981 Mediterranean Region- Motorized tour of southern Europe and northern Africa (assisted by Mrs. Ross); 6 months.

1982 United States- Fieldtrips to southeast Arizona and Great Plains. 1 month.

1982 Peru- Fieldwork in upper Amazon forests of Madre de Dios and Iquitos regions of Peru. Sites reached by air; 2 months.

1983 China- Collected in Yunnan Prov., especially in a tropical, upper Mekong River locality; 3 weeks.

        Malaya and Sumatra- Motorized tour of Malaya and fieldwork in Sumatra. The latter to photograph Earth's largest flower, Rafflesia, for a National Geographic article, 4 weeks.

1984 North Africa and Europe- Motorized tour of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Europe to collect and especially photograph pseudocopulation ofOphrysorchids by wasps and bees.

        Turkey- Continued above tour to representative biotic zones (including eastern regions) (assisted by Mrs. Ross) 7 months (including above phase).

1987 Panama and Venezuela- Extensive motorized tours. Jan. 17 - Feb. 28.

1987 West Indies- British West Indies, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica. Last three portions in rented vehicles. July 10 - August 12. 3 weeks.

1988-89 Mexico- Motorized tour of Baja California and mainland. (with Dr. Ron Stecker). Dec. 23 - Jan. 15.

1989 Borneo- Sabah, Mt. Kinabalu,Malaya, northern Vietnam(Hanoi to China border), and northernThailand - 2 months.Western Australiareturned to San Francisco after a 6000 km. motor tour of S.W. Australia in a rented car, during 1 month (Sept.).

1991 Ecuador- Motorized survey of Embiidina, Andean altiplano and Amazon drainage. 6 weeks.

        Ecuador- Fieldwork in Cuyabeno and Aguarico river areas. (trip sponsored by Metropolitan Touring). September.

        Brazil- Joined Dr. Vitor Becker (Brazilian lepidopterist) in a trip to Rancho Grande, Rondonia. Nov. 24 - Dec. 8. Excellent embiid collecting.

1992 Ecuador- Galapagos (Feb. 18 - 25), upper Rio Napo (Feb. 26 - Mar. 5), Rio Aguarico (Mar. 6-9), upper Rio Napo (Mar. 12 - Apr. 1).

1992 Brazil- following above trips, assisted by Vitor Becker, surveyed by car Atlantic forests north of Rio. Apr. 3 - 29.

1992-93 Ecuador- In rented 4x4 motored throughout Andes and upper Amazon drainage, with Vitor Becker. Dec. 4 - Jan. 16.

        Brazil- following above tour, visited Atlantic forests south of Rio, including Parana and Santa Catarina states with Vitor Becker. Jan. 19 - Feb. 17.

1994-95 Ecuador- Fieldwork in upper Rio Napo region. Jan. 1 - Feb.15 and Oct. 27 - Jan. 15, 1996.

1996 Ecuador- Fieldwork in ssemi-arid west coast near Bahia, March-April and in upper Rio Napo region Nov-Dec.


NSF Grant 3262, "A monograph of the insect order Embioptera."

Starting date: Jan. 1, 1957. Amount: $6,000. One year.
Worked on available collections, especially specimens cultured from extensive 1954-55 fieldwork in Andean and upper Amazon regions of South America. Borrowed material from European museums, including entire collections used by Krauss in his 1911 monograph and by Enderlein in his 1912 monograph.
On June 16, 1957 use of grant funds interrupted to begin a 13-month motorized survey of African embiids partially supported by National Geographic Society and personal funds
July 15, 1958, after return from Africa, resumed laboratory work with NSF grant funds. These were exhausted June 30, 1959. Thanks to support from other sources, and the use of personal funds, the one-year period of NSF grant 3262 had been extended to two and one-half years.

NSF Grant 9020, "Monographic studies of the insect order Embioptera."

Starting date: July 1, 1959. Amount: $18,000. Three years.
Maintained 570 cultures secured during the 13-month African survey. Recorded coloration of specimens while alive. Prepared more than 5,000 microscope slides. Produced drawings and manuscripts.
Starting Oct. 3, 1959, studied embiid collections, especially types, in London, Paris, Genoa and Sardinia while enroute to Madagascar. Returning home late in December, made significant collecting trips in Kenya and Ethiopia, and museum visits in Barcelona, Zaragoza, and London. In Zaragoza located the "lost" Navás collection and borrowed the entire embiid portion which is rich in poorly described types. Travel expenses: One-third NSF, two-thirds personal funds.
February 1960 Resumed laboratory work. Rough draft of monograph at this time comprised hundreds of pages of typescript, 200 pen-and-ink illustrations, and photographs. Tropical Asian coverage was weak. Therefore the following survey was urgent.

NSF Grant 17612, "Partial support of a field survey of the Embioptera of tropical Asia."

Starting Date: May 4, 1961. Amount $6,800. One Year.
Including leftover funds from grant 9020, grants from the National Geographic Society, and the California Academy of Sciences, and personal funds, a major expedition, eighteen months in duration, was conducted which, in addition to India and S. E. Asia, included a cross-continent embiid survey of Australia. About 800 cultures of embiids were secured and more than 500,000 insects of other orders were collected, principally by a field assistant and Mrs. Ross.

NSF Grant G-25132, "A monograph of the insect order Embioptera."

Starting date: August 3,1962. Amount $25,300. Three years.
Grant supported continuance of laboratory research which was considerably increased the scope by the extensive Indo-australian expedition. During the grant period Japan was visited while serving as entomologist for a US-Japan cooperative project. The U.S. delegation, led by Ernst Mayr, included David Keck who was then high in NSF administration. When Dr. Keck heard that 800 cultures of embiids were on hand, he recommended and supported the following grant to make a cytogenetic survey of the order.

NSF Grant G-2008, "A cytogenetic approach to a classification of the insect order Embioptera."

Starting date: Feb. 15, 1964. Two years.
Work began with "squash" preparations of testes of all available species.
Because of a need for cultures of the most plesiomorphis species of the order, such asClothodaof the Amazon Basin, a two-month trip with partial support by the National Geographic Society was made to several South American countries. BesidesClothoda , many other taxa were secured to expand cytogenetic and systematic research.
Additional squash preparations were made and analyzed by graduate students in genetics at U.C. Berkeley, supervised by Dr. Spencer Brown. Detailed reports and chromosome drawings were made. These concluded that relationships developed by use of integumental characters are supported by cytogenetic analysis.


1940a. A new genus of Embioptera from the West Indies. Pan-Pacific Ent., 16:12

1940b. A Revision of the Embioptera of North America. Ann. Ent. Soc. Amer. 33:629-676, 50 figs.

1943a. Two new Indian Embioptera and the lectotype ofOligotoma borneensisHagen. Psyche, 50:100-108, 13 figs.

1943b. Metodos de recoleccion, crianza y estudio de los Embiópteros (Ins., Embioptera). Rev. de Entomologia, 14:441-446.

1943. Mosquito Atlas, Parts I and II (characters of principal vectors of malaria in New and Old World). Amer. Ent. Soc., Philadelphia, 88 pp., 79 figs. (by Ross) (with H. Radcliffe Roberts).

1944. A Revision of Embioptera, or web-spinners of the New World. Proc. U.S. Nat"l., Mus. 94:401-504, 145 fig., 2 pls.

1948. The Embioptera of New Guinea. Pan-Pacific Ent., 24:97-116, 7 figs.

1950. The Embiidae of India. Wasmann Journ. Biol. 8:133-153, 7 figs.

1951a. A new species of Embioptera from Oceania. Proc. Hawaiian Ent. Soc., 14:307-310, 1 fig.

1951b. Three new African Embiidae (Embioptera). Annals and Magazine Nat. Hist. (12) 4:381-389, 3 fig.

1952a. The Embioptera of Angola. Publicacoes Culturais Companhia de Diamantes de Angola, 14:41-54.

1952b. The identity ofTeratembia geniculataKrauss, and a new status for the family Teratembiidae (Embioptera). Wasmann Journ. Biol., 10:225-234, 2 figs.

1955a. Insects of Micronesia: Embioptera. B.P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, 8:1-8, 2 figs.

1955b. Systematic Entomology (Introduction and Embioptera sections) in "A Century of Progress in the Natural Sciences," 1853-1953. California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, xii+807, 1955 (pages 485-495 and 515-516).

1955c. Embioptera. South African Animal Life, Uppsala, 2:302-305, fig. 1.

1956a. Embioptera. Glossary of Terms of Outer Genitalia of Insects. Edited by S. L. Tuxen. Verlag Junk, den Haag (pp. 63-66, figs. 63-68.

1956b. The Identity of Oligotoma braminaSaussure) (Embioptera: Oligotomidae). Wasmann Journ. Biol. 14:313-316m, fig. 1.

1956c. A new genus of Embioptera from Baltic Amber, Mitt. Geol. Staatinst. Hamburg, 25:76-81, 2 figs.

1957a. The Embioptera of California. Bull. California Insect. Surv., 6:51-57, 7 figs. - frontispiece.

1957b. Proposed use of the Plenary Powers to valide the generic name " Dictyoploca" Jordan, 1911 (Class Insect, Order Lepidoptera) by suppressing the name "Dictyoploca" Krauss, 1911 (Class Insecta, Order Embioptera). Bull. Zool. Nomencl. 13:80-83.

1957c. Embioptera. Contributions a l'etude de la faune entomologique du Ruanda-Urundi (Mission P. Basilewsky 1953). Ann. Mus. Congo, Tervuren 8:9-11, fig. 1.

1957d. Embioptera. Mem. Inst. Sci. Madagascar (3) 8: 1

1961. Parthenogenetic African Embioptera. Wasmann Journ. Biol. 18:297-304.

1963. The families of Australian Embioptera, with descriptions of a new family, genus, and species. Wasmann Journ. Biol. 21:121-136, 2 figs. 1963.

1966a. The Embioptera of Europe and the Mediterranean Region. Bull. British Museum (N.H.). 17:272-326, 20 figs., 1966.

1966b. A new species of Embioptera from the Galapagos Islands. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 34:499-504, 1 fig., 1966.

1970a. Biosystematics of the Embioptera. Ann. Rev. of Ent. 15:157-171. 1970.

1970b. Embioptera (Embiids, web-spinners, foot-spinners), Chapter 23. The Insects of Australia C.S.I.R.O. Melbourne Univ. Press. pp. 360-366, Chapter figs. 1-7, 1970.

1970c. Embioptera, Chapter 14. Taxonomist's Glossary of Genitalia in Insects. Edited by S. L. Tuxen. Munkgaard, Copenhagen. pp. 72-75, figs. 76-81, 1970.

1971. A new Neotropical genus and species of Embioptera. Wasmann Journ. Biol. 29:29-36, 1971.

1972a. Research on the insect order Embioptera. Nat. Geo. Research Report, 1955-1960 Projects, pp. 149-160, 1972.

1972b. New South American Embioptera. Studies on the Neotropical fauna. 7:133-146, 7 figs., 1972.

1972c. Embioptera (Embiidina). Encycl. Britannica, 1972.

1974a. Class Insect. Order Embioptera (pp. 43-45). In: Coaton, W., Editor, Status of the Taxnomy of the Hexapoda of Southern Africa. Ent. Mem. Dept. Agric. Tech. Ser., Rep. South Africa, no. 38, 1974.

1974b. Embioptera (Embiids, web-spinners, foot-spinners). In: The Insects of Australia, Suppl. 1974. Melbourne Univ. Press, Carlton, p. 50, 1974.

1978. The Embiidina of China. Mem. Hong Kong Natural History Soc., No. 13, pp. 1-8, 4 figs., 1978.

1979. Embioptera from Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Report No. 48, Lund Univ. Ceylon Expedition in 1962, Sweden, pp. 30-32, 1979.

1981. Insects of Saudi Arabia: Embiidina. Fauna of Saudi Arabia, 3:201-208, 5 figs., 1981.

1982. Embiidina in Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms. McGraw-Hill Book Co. pp. 387-389, 1982.

1984a. A synopsis of the Embiidina of the United States. Proc. Ent. Soc. Washington, 86:82-93, 4 figs., 1984.

1984b. A classification of the Embiidina of Mexico with descriptions of new taxa. Occ. Papers Calif. Academy of Sci., No. 140, 54 pp., 16 figs., 1984.

1985. Order Embiidina (Embioptera). Insects of Southern Africa, Butterworths, Durban, Chapter 10, pp. 71-73. Edited by C. H. Scholtz and E. Holm. 1985.

1987a. Order Embiidina (Embioptera), Chapter 18 in Immature Insects (F. W. Stehr, ed.), pp. 179-183, figs. 18. 1-5. Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa. 1987.

1987b. Studies in the insect order Embiidina: A revision of the family Clothodidae. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 45: 9-34 12 figs., 1987.

1988. A new species of Embiidina (Embioptera) from Zaire. Bull. & Annales Société Royale Belge d'Entomologie 124(7/9): 215-217, 1988.

1989. Chapter 19. Embiidina, An introduction to the study of web-spinners in insects. Sixth Edition, Borros, Triplehorn and Johnson, Saunders College Publishing, 1989, pp. 247-249.

1990. Order Embiidina (Embioptera) p. 85-86. In systematics of tne North American insects and arachnids: Status and needs, ed. M. Kosztarab and C. W. Schaefer. Virginia Agric. Expt. STat. Info. Ser 90-1. Blacksburg: Virginia Polytech. Inst. and State Univ. (with D. A. Nickle). 1990.

1991. Chapter 26. Embioptera - Embiidina (Embiids, web-spinners, foot-spinners), in The Insects of Australia, 2nd Ed. Vol. I., pp. 405-409, 7 figs., Melbourne Univ. Press, 1991.

1992. Insects of Panama and Mesoamerica, Chapter 9, Webspinners of Panama (Embiidina), pp. 122-141, 15 figs. Oxford Univ. Press. 1992.

Note: In addition more than 50 shorters research papers have been published. A very large manuscript on the embiids of the world is in production.


1970. Animal and Plant Life Study Prints, McGraw-Hill Films, New York (180 large color prints with extensive text, for primary and secondary grades).

1971. African Studies Program. Noble and Noble Publ., N.Y. (ten 80-page, profusely illustrated (in color) booklets and teacher's guide on African people for secondary grade use (with M. L. Clifford).

1973. Insect Overview: A pictorial introduction to the world of insects. Syll. for Intro. Entomology, Brigham Young Press, Provo, Utah, pp. 1-25, 80 figs. plus set of transparencies.

1975. Introducing Insects. The New Dimension Series, Beckman Instruments, Inc. E-1, 42 pp., 82 slides, 4 cassette tapes.

1977. Traditional India. Filmstrip House, N.Y. (a 460-slide filmstrip with cassette narration on human culture and geography of India, for high school and university use).

Note: Illustrations and shorter writings appear in scores of texts and guidebooks.


1953. Insects Close Up. A pictorial guide for the photographer and collector. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley, 90 pp., 125 figs. (booklet)

1961. Hunting Africa's Smallest Game. Nat'l. Geographic, 119:406-419, color ill. (article)

_____ The Ants. Panorama Colorslide Nature and Science Program. Columbia Record Club. 45 pp., 53 figs., 32 color slides. Record narration by Walter Cronkite. (book)

_____ Camouflage in Nature. Ibid. Record narration by Hans Conreid. (book)

1965. Birds that "see" in the dark with their ears. Nat'l. Geographic, 127:282-290, color ill. (article).

_____ Asian Insects in Disguise. Nat'l. Geographic, 128:432-439, color ill. (article)

1968. The Nature of Things (a weekly nature column, each with a photo and article published for 52 weeks). San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner, California Living Section.

1969. Ants and Bees. Book of Knowledge Annual. Grolier, Inc., N.Y., pp. 140-149, 18 color figs.

1972. A spattering of butterflies. Audubon 74:68-75, numerous color ill.

1984. Mantids, the praying predators. Nat'l. Geographic, 165:130-142, 16 color ill. (article).

1986. Consider the ant and be wise. Pacific Discovery, 39(4):21-33, 21 color ill. + cover. (article).

1990. The world of willie webfoot. Ranger Rick (Nat'l. Wildlife Federation), 24: 40-47, 11 color ill. (article).

1994. Fearsome Fulgora. Pacific Discovery, 47:19-23, 6 color ill. (article).

1997.  The Entwined Lives of Plants and Insects.  California's Wild Gardens - A Living Legacy.  Calif. Native Plant Soc.  For Calif. Dept. Fish and Game, p. 77, 2 color ill.

1998.  A trickle-down forest economy.  Zoogoer (Magazine of Friends of the National Zoo)  Sept.-Oct.  Cover and pp. 8-12 (color photographs).

Note: In addition many popular articles have appeared in various magazines and other media. Was a major contributor to "Science in Action" and other TV programs. (Income from such activities have helped to finance research fieldwork.)


1996. Ross, E. S. and N. D. Penny.  Check-list of Extant World Embidiina.