CHARLES VALENTINE RILEY Founder of Modern Entomology
by W. Conner Sorensen, Edward H. Smith, and Janet R. Smith, with Donald C. Weber
2019, 456 pages, 17 color illustrations, 27 b/w illustrations, 4 maps, 1 table. This definitive biography is the first full account of a fascinating American scientist whose leadership created the modern science of entomology. It tells the story of how Riley (1843–1895), a young British immigrant to America—with classical schooling, a smattering of natural history knowledge, talent in art and writing, but no formal training in science—came to play a key role in changing the focus of entomology from the collection and arrangement of specimens to the scientific approach which includes insect evolution, diversity, ecology, and applied management of insect pests.
Drawing on Riley’s personal diaries, family records, correspondence, and publications, the authors trace Riley’s career from farm laborer through Chicago journalist, Missouri State Entomologist, chief federal entomologist, founder of the National Insect Collection, and initiator of the professional organization that became the Entomological Society of America. The book also examines in detail his spectacular campaigns against the Rocky Mountain Locust, Grape Phylloxera, Cotton Worm, and Cottony Cushion Scale that threatened the California citrus industry in the 1880s. The latter was controlled through importation of the Vedalia Beetle from Australia, the first example of biological control of an invasive insect pest by its introduced natural enemy.
A striking figure in appearance and deed, Riley combined scientific, literary, artistic, and managerial skills which enabled him to influence every aspect of entomology. A correspondent of Darwin and one of his most vocal American advocates, he discovered the famous example of mimicry in the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies, and described the intricate coevolution of yucca moths and yuccas, a complex system that fascinates evolutionary scientists to this day. Whether applying evolutionary theory to pest control, promoting an American silk industry, developing improved spray technologies, or promoting applied entomology in government and to the public, Riley was the central figure in the formative years of the entomology profession. In addition to showcasing his own renderings of the insects he investigated, this comprehensive account provides fresh insight into the personal and public life of an ingenious, colorful, and controversial scientist who aimed to discover, understand, and outsmart the insects. A must read for entomologists about a pioneer in the field.
Hardcover; 7 x 10”.
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