Quotations from the Writings of
Melville H. Hatch

Coleopterist, Historian of Science, Philosopher, Founder of The Scarabs
1898 - 1988

See the publications list for detailed references to the writings cited below. Quotations are arranged in 10 categories. To jump to any category click on it in this list:



Insects and Pests

Life and Biology

The Scarabs



Nomenclature and Taxonomy


Men, Women and Mankind

On Beetles:

"A tiny creature from one to 150 millimeters in length combining in unbelievable perfection the advantages of an aerial and a terrestrial animal."
          ---Beetles (1946)

"Beetles themselves display practically no tendency to form colonies of their own and have remained in general 'rugged individualists.'"
          ---Beetles (1946)

"The surface of the ocean, inhabited by Halobates (Hemiptera), and the deeper waters of lakes, rivers, and to a slight extent, of the ocean, inhabited by dipterous and other gill-breathing insect larvae, are practically the only insect habitats uninhabited by Coleoptera."
          ---Habitats of Coleoptera (1925)

"Late in June of 1933 my good friend, Mr. M.C. Lane of Walla Walla, Washington, was on his vacation collecting beetles in the dense evergreen forest back of Seaside, on the coast of Clatsop County in extreme northwestern Oregon. He was after 'big game.' And he got it.
          "The previous September Mr. Lane had taken in the same locality a single specimen of the remarkable blind pterostichid, Anilloferonia Van Dyke, but he had not recognized his prize until he got home. Now he was back after more. He found them!
          "In small rodent tunnels under twelve or fourteen inch logs sunk two-thirds of their diameter in the damp forest floor, the remnants of a long deserted lumber camp, Mr. Lane took a series of the Anilloferonia, which proved to be distinct from Van Dyke's species described from Mt. Adams. What is more extraordinary still, he found in the same situation two specimens of an undescribed blind genus of Leiodidae..."
          ---Two Remarkable Blind Beetles from Northwestern Oregon (1935)

"One of my best lectures in entomology was nearly disrupted by one of these little beetles, walking across the floor... Professor Kincaid tells how the beetles flew in through the windows of an ice plant in Tacoma and fell into the vats of freezing water. When the ice melted in the refrigerators of the customers of the company, the result was most unfortunate!"
          ---The Malodorous Ground Beetle (1931)

"Entomologists will recognize in Coniontis, Eleodes, Dyslobus, and Brachyrhinus very resistant beetles that often endure many hours in the cyanide bottle before being overcome, and the suggestion is probably not without merit that the virulent toxicity of the venom of the Black Widow is correlated with the 'tough' nature of its prey."
          ---Note on the Food of the Black Widow Spider (1934)

"I conclude my discussion of these ectoparasitic beetles with the suggestion that the apparent rarity of some of the species is perhaps due to the failure of mammalogists and other trappers of small mammals to examine their recently dead specimens with sufficient care to discover the beetles. Perhaps beetle collectors should trap their own mammals!"
          ---Blind Beetles in the Fauna of the Pacific Northwest (1958)

"The beetles that to the general public are primarily a matter of interest without fear of their harmfulness are only 3 or 4 in number in Seattle. I have a formula for identifying them on the telephone. If it is brown without stripes and about 3 inches long it is the pine sawyer, Ergates spiculatus LeC. If it is about 2 inches long and the stripes run crosswise, it is the California laurel borer, Rosalia funebris Mots. If it is about an inch long and the stripes run lengthwise, it is the ten-lined June beetle, Polyphylla decemlineata Say. If it is the size of a lady bug and golden in color, it is the golden tortoise beetle, Metriona bicolor F."
          ---The Cultural Value of Beetles (1967)

"The joy and excitement of beetle-collecting must be experienced to be fully appreciated; the freshness and the beauty of the countryside, the exhilaration of the physical exertion, the continual gamble that each new stone or hedgerow will reveal some unexpected rarity, the scientific interest of studying these complex insects, the satisfaction of seeing one's collection of these living jewels grow under one's hand."
          ---Beetles (1946)

"I ask you to accompany me on a typical beetle hunt. We are sweeping the grass and other herbage with our sweep nets for the multitude of small beetles feeding on the herbage itself like the leaf beetles and weevils, on the microscopic mold which frequently grows on the damp grass like the minute Latridiidae, or on the multitudinous plant lice like the lady beetles. The roots of grass or the underside of boards and stones are searched for ground beetles or rove beetles. Tiger beetles are to be stalked by long-handled nets, gravel bars and mud flats examined for ground beetles or rove beetles or Heteroceridae and the still waters of lake-side or stream-side pools searched for water beetles. And still to be mentioned are the 'delights' of the finds to be made under a recently dead carcass or a newly deposited pile of dung.
          "What have we gained? First of all, the Emersonian delight in nature has flowed in upon us. But beyond this, there has been the satisfaction of making contact with a particular division of nature; and this is a satisfaction that is not terminated by a single day's outing, but lingers with us and is enjoyed over and over again as our little jewel-like creatures are mounted and labeled and sorted and resorted, accompanied by an increasing understanding of what we have obtained."
          ---The Cultural Value of Beetles (1967)

"A novel and probably not very appealing notion would be the establishment of a 'beetle garden.' How would such a garden be organized? I envisage the placing of numerous boards and stones, around which and in the vicinity of walls the grass would not be clipped at all closely. A judiciously selected log or so would grace the background, with the cultivation of wild flowers known to be attractive to the emerging beetles. Fresh cattle dung might be too objectionable to provide, but small carcasses would be in order, protected if possible, from the neighborhood cats. Small stands of plants especially attractive to certain beetles might be provided: dock, alder, willow, elm, skunk cabbage, asparagus, clover, potato, though the garden should not become an objectionable center for the dispersal of pest species! Moreover, on the small scale on which such a 'beetle garden' would operate, hand picking could probably easily be resorted to to keep certain of the populations under control. At the other extreme, it is equally obvious that only small samples of each species could be taken by the collector for his collection. The very laudable tendency of the properly conditioned beetle collector to collect all the specimens in sight would have to be kept under control. The establishment and operation of such a garden would call into play the full range of the 'gardener's' knowledge of beetles."
          ---The Cultural Value of Beetles (1967)

"The endless variability and structure of these lovely little creatures that search of garden and meadow and woodland reveals is, for the initiated, a never-ending source of delight. And when we penetrate the matter further and begin to enter into an understanding of the diverse ways in which this wonderful structure adapts these little creatures to their very diverse ways of life, we are approaching the heart of nature. Whatever our theology, whether we view these lovely creatures as the manifestation of a supreme Author of Nature or whether we view these and other manifestations of nature as ultimately inexplicable, the study or contemplation of them in any of its aspects must be regarded as one of the highest and most worthy pastimes in which cultivated human beings can engage."
          ---The Cultural Value of Beetles (1967)


On Insects and Insect Pests:

"Insects represent a great resource of pleasure and enjoyment the extent of which is now only partially realized."
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)

"I am sure that anyone like myself who likes to write keys has had the experience of mulling over the genera or species to be analyzed in a particular key. Gradually one marshals in his mind or on his work papers the characters involved, the varying degrees of likeness that they indicate, and the clarity and lack of ambiguity with which they may be expressed in words... Finally the details fall into line and one goes to press. The analysis shapes up in logical decisive form. This, I submit, is another source of aesthetic satisfaction that entomology holds in store for its devotees...
          "Do not misunderstand me, not all keys have the happy outcome just described! Sometimes the material is refractory - the data are inadequate or the lines of cleavage unclear. Sometimes the writer or the user of the key gives the matter insufficient patience and study and the result is uncertainty and frustration. There is then a deficiency of aesthetic satisfaction."
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)

"Human representations of insects may be better or worse, more adequate or less adequate, more beautiful or less beautiful. But, when it comes to the insects themselves, I suggest this may not be the case. Some kinds of insects may be larger or more streamlined or more colorful than other insects, some may be more or less harmful or beneficial, but I doubt whether, in any legitimate sense of the term, one species of insect can be considered to be any more beautiful than any other species."
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)

"Nothing is more useful than wings when one wants to go somewhere rapidly and efficiently. Nothing is more annoying when one wants to busy himself with affairs on the ground. An airplane in heavy street traffic epitomizes the problem that these first winged insects faced."
          ---Beetles (1946)

"Human society, we hope, is still capable of modification. The honey bee's society has already achieved all of which it seems capable."
          ---The Origin and Evolution of the Honey Bee (1950)

"He who has failed to follow Fabre's hunting wasps over the countryside of southern France or to explore the ways of the dung-rolling Scarabaeus has not availed himself of one of the choicest experiences that entomology has to offer."
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)

"When man first began to harvest his grain and store it away in jars or bins he established conditions that were favorable for the multiplication of a group of beetles and moths that up to that time had led a rather inconspicuous existence in certain natural habitats."
          ---The Biology of Stored Grain Insects (1942)

"The grain elevator, the flour mill, the grocery store, the housewife's kitchen are simply an enormous insect habitat extending its tentacles into all portions of the wheat-consuming world."
          ---The Biology of Stored Grain Insects (1942)

"Many of our most serious pests are introduced: our household and stored-product insects, as well as most of those species living in close association with cultivated plants. Nor is this strange when it is reflected that the white man himself and nearly all his domesticated plants and animals are emigrants from elsewhere."
          ---A Century of Entomology in the Pacific Northwest (1949)

"...it is better to have studied the insects briefly than not at all..."
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)


About The Scarabs:

"Ours was to be a social group where it would not be out of order to talk about beetles!"
          ---Scarabogram No. 3, June 1947

"Scarab Minsk has preserved a sphinx-like silence since she left us last November."
          ---Scarabogram No. 1, August 1946

"The Daileys are expecting an addition to their family in January. Here's hoping it's a coleopterist!"
          ---Scarabogram No. 2, December 1946

"The news from Scarabs is one of continued if unexciting activity."
          ---Scarabogram No. 9, June 1952

"And we continue to discuss everything from beetles to nudism, foldboating, and the nature of human destiny and of God!"
          ---Scarabogram No. 10, June 1957


About Himself:

"The writer still remembers himself standing around the school house door at recess time waiting for the bell to ring that would readmit him to the building!"
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"I have nightmares about hairy caterpillars, just as may the most timid housewife!"
          ---The Cultural Value of Beetles (1967)

"The author well remembers that at no time did he appear to himself to have so encompassed human knowledge and wisdom as during his senior year in high school! He must have presented a rather amusing and perhaps somewhat irksome spectacle to both his parents and teachers, but he does not recall that his somewhat exaggerated self-esteem was any real barrier to the widening perspectives of his college years."
          ---Biology in the High School (1952)

"I got very little of inspiration from any of my university professors. I didn't need that because I had my inspiration already. But such soundness of scholarship as I possess came from their instruction."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"I went into university work because of interest in zoology and other intellectual matters from the standpoint of research and teaching, and I find these interests in important measure frustrated by personnel, budgetary, and departmental house-keeping problems. What dubious satisfaction comes from having a greater share in formulating policy is more than offset by this factor."
          ---Scarabogram No. 4, December 1947; on his stint as Zoology Department chairman

"There are, in all probability, stolid self-satisfied individuals whose mental processes are as sure, as unfeeling, and as certain as the action of a calculating machine... But, in my own case, I find my research is as nervous and as fitful as a wild colt. Some weeks, some months, even some years it goes fine and I accomplish a prodigious amount. And then again it is otherwise... If one discovers that he works in streaks and starts, he should learn to utilize those moods to the utmost when they are upon him. The other times, then, may not be quite so dissatisfying."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"And this leads me to my own pet project ... Beetles of the Pacific Northwest. The work has received various sorts of criticism - not in print and not to my face, but by way of innuendo by round-about routes. Why was I wasting my energy on such a study instead of a continent-wide or world-wide specialization on a smaller group? Did I not realize that general phylogenetic or taxonomic principles could not emerge from concentration on sympatric species usually more or less distantly related to each other; and no one should study insects just to distinguish species? Or did I know that the public interested in using my book was far too small to justify such a labor? --this from a person publishing on a minute widely distributed group of insects in which probably not more than half a dozen other persons were interested! ...If there were only a few who would use my book at first, I felt that its very existence would attract others to the study and would stimulate the very amateurism whose low ebb we deplore. But I would make errors... Some of my errors, I might hope, would be trivial. Some would make me most unhappy!"
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)


On Religion:

"The characterization of man as the religious animal probably comes nearer to distinguishing him in terms of a single unique trait than does reference to any other characteristic."
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)

"In some way religion lacks the techniques that science possesses for attaining agreement. The great religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the present multiplicity of religious sects were some of the results."
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)

"The practice of religious freedom should consist of more than one's supercilious permission to his neighbor to hold to any silly system of superstitions that he may desire. One must come to an active sympathy for others' religious views which may spring from a realization that different religious practices are only different approaches to the worship of the Most High."
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)

"But it is one thing to discover mythology in the other fellow's religion and another thing to find it in one's own!"
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)

"In short, our early ancestor believed himself an object of concern to the gods, to stand in a transcendently significant and important relationship to the world in which he found himself. At times even death came to be looked upon as merely an illusion. All this gave early man the courage both to live and to die for what appeared to be the proper cause.
          "We reject the supernatural explanation that primitive man was in intuitive contact with divine agencies. Rather it is suggested that societies the constituent individuals of which held such views were favored by natural selection because an outlook of this sort gave a social stability that otherwise was lacking. The feeling that, if he behaved properly, he might become the special care and concern of the supreme powers of the universe gave primitive man a sense of security that enabled him to meet the hazards to which every society is subject in a manner that would otherwise have been impossible."
          ---Science and the Crisis (1943)

"Only in the worship of a supremely good God can man hope to find the strength to lead a really good life. This is as potent an argument for the recognition of God's existence as any with which I am acquainted."
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)

"The assumption of God is man's refusal to concede that he stands alone in an unsympathetic universe."
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)

"A certain school of theologians will have no difficulty in assuming God as the artificer and creator of nature and will find in the existence of natural beauty evidence as to a part of the Divine design in bringing about the creation. A person with agnostic tendencies, like myself, at least as far as the phenomenal order is concerned, while he may grant the possibility of the theological view, will likewise seek an explanation of natural beauty that is more naturalistic. The suggestion is, accordingly, made that beauty does not require a creator but only a perceiver. There may or may not be a creator, but there must be a perceiver, even if it is only the creator experiencing the beauty of his creation."
          ---Nature and Aesthetic Value (1964)

"Darwin had completely lost any belief in revealed religion by 1837, the year in which he began to investigate the species problem, and he viewed the church purely as a social and sociological institution. His view of nature seemed to render so unlikely the existence of a supervising Deity that he regarded natural theology as a matter of no interest.
          "Lyell and Chambers ... and Asa Gray ...did not 'sell God short,' as Darwin seemed to be doing, but realized that a truly omniscient omnipotent Deity could control and foreordain the world through the medium of the 'chance' phenomena that science seemed to be discovering. For them ... there was no such thing as real 'chance' but only events with so far undeciphered causation.
          "Finally there were the clergymen like Buckland and Sedgwick and Whewell. They were genuine scientists to a degree, but they likewise were profoundly motivated by a belief in Revelation and this set bounds for them that they were able to surpass, if at all, only with real anguish of mind and spirit. The animal origin of man was an idea that was for them so definitely out of bounds that there were virtually no mental gymnastics they would not engage in to sustain its denial."
          ---Charles Lyell and Nineteenth Century Evolution (1963)

"I suggest this attitude toward immortality: one cannot experience either his own beginning or his own end, hence from a positivistic viewpoint he is immortal... However, if such a view does not satisfy, one may accept the orthodox type of immortality with Cicero's reflection that, if one is wrong, he will never know about it!"
          ---Religion and the Crisis (1947)

"The benefits of religion are in nearly complete measure realized by believing in them, whereas no amount of belief in a democratic Utopia would seem to be efficacious in the absence of a corresponding actually existent political system!"
          ---Russia and the Crisis (1947)

"If the state is to keep its hands off religious affairs, persons interested in religion must likewise refrain from allowing their particular systems of religious mythology to interfere with the obligation of state supported schools to put students in touch with generally established scientific and historical conclusions."
          ---Religion in a Post-Kantian World (1961)


On Science:

"...ill did it betide our cave ancestor if he pondered too long over the classification of the saber-tooth that was about to devour him. The abstraction 'fearful beast - run' was of the utmost urgency!"
          ---The Logical Basis of the Species Concept (1941)

"Science is organized critical knowledge. Its fundamental assumption is that of the approximate uniformity of experience. On the basis of precise observations... it seeks to establish generalizations or hypotheses, which it proceeds to confirm or modify by the discovery of additional data."
          ---Science and the Crisis (1943)

"Take care of the facts and the principles will take care of themselves! Moreover, I say this because of no lack of solicitude for the principles, but because of conviction that concern for principles alone is like building a house on a foundation of sand and tends to result in barren scholasticism. Sufficiently penetrating pondering of the facts leads to the only sort of generalization that is worth while."
          ---Research and the University (1947)

"Science is primarily a matter of facts and observation, and inadequate theories founded on true observations are more significant than true theories that are simply jumps in the dark, without adequate facts behind them."
          ---Book review in The Biologist 18(1): 68 (1936)

"Recently, in the course of the prosecution of his research, the editor had occasion to refer to a memoir the authors of which are continually getting lost in wonder at the ignorance and obtuseness of nearly all their predecessors! By inference, we are asked to marvel at the perfect state of knowledge of these present authors. What has been missed ... is the relativity of all scientific work."
          ---Editorial in The Biologist, 41(3-4): 67 (1959)

"The person who has determined that he is sufficiently interested in science to devote a portion of his life to its study and advancement has taken an important step. He has decided that life for him means something more than eating, sleeping, and reproduction, that he is going to participate in the great human adventure of attempting to understand the world."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"One's house may be just as shabby this year as last, one's job may be no better... But if there are just a few more specimens in the collection, if one's knowledge on certain points is just a little more adequate, life is not entirely meaningless."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"The spectacle of a person interested in knowledge for its own sake is to most individuals perplexing. The instinct of the herd is to suspicion and then to expel a nonconforming member... Those who are closest are frequently the least understanding: a mother, a spouse, a child. They do not understand us, but they love us. And the more they love us the more do they fail to grasp our devotion to what seems to them so strange and so alien... 'There now, dear, put away the bugs!' Comes morning, or next week, or next month, and one takes up the task where it was left. Nothing lost - to all outward appearance. Yet, 'art is long and time is fleeting' and the funeral drums of the poet are sounding in our ears."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"If Darwin had waited to get well before continuing with his studies, The Origin of Species would never have been written."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"Difficult as it may be for us to believe, British geology during these years in which some of the basic principles of the science were being laid, was to a considerable extent the avocation of the leisure hours of clergymen."
          ---Charles Lyell and Nineteenth Century Evolution (1963)

"Verily, among the socially imposed obstacles to research, none is greater than femininity! ... Her family, her husband's family, her friends alike may view with distrust not unmixed with amusement, the spectacle of a woman interested in something other than babies, cooking, and bridge."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"Science is organized knowledge. This is platitudinous, but it is frequently forgotten by the science historian, who drapes the most isolated and inconsequential observations as science."
          ---Theophrastus of Eresos as an Economic Entomologist (1938)

"Control of scientific activity that attempts to dictate its conclusions in advance is so absurd that one would not suppose it would ever occur. But anthropology in the hands of the Nazis, genetics under the Communists, and history in the hands of totalitarians of whatever persuasion are evidences of its attempt."
          ---The Human Predicament and the Nature of Knowledge (1964)

"Science does not offer a solution to all of life's problems. It is a specialized field that has proven vastly effective in giving man an understanding and control of certain features of his environment. It is, however, neither an esthetics nor a religion. Let it be kept in its place."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"I am conservative or radical enough to hold that the most important reason for the study of science is to obtain an ever increasing appreciation of the wonder and beauty of the phenomenal world."
          ---The Human Predicament and the Nature of Knowledge (1964)


On Life and Biology:

"Now it seems probable that the first living thing arose by the coming together of atoms in the initial environment into such a pattern that it started producing replicas of itself! If we ask why the sterile culture medium does not spontaneously swarm with living things, the answer is that the proper combination of atoms is so improbable that within the time and space limits of the culture medium it is quite unlikely to occur. It is so unlikely, in fact, that if such an event were ever reported by a laboratory worker, it would be put down to prevarication on his part, to contamination from some outside source, or to some other sort of error."
          ---Man's Place in Nature (1959)

"The explosive nature of the reproductive capacity of organisms is frequently not appreciated. I have calculated that if all the progeny of a single individual of a certain one-celled micro-organism (Paramecium) that divides about 600 times a year were to survive, about two months would be required to turn all the available food materials in the world into organisms of this single type. Thereupon, there would be nothing left for them to do except to eat each other!"
          ---What is Man? (1944)

"Paramecium, a one-celled animal, with the capacity of dividing fifty times a month could convert all available materials into living matter in about sixty days. Actually, however, the rate would be much slower because of their slow rate of locomotion. If a Paramecium can swim one millimeter in one minute, it would take on the order of 40,000 years for one to swim half way around the earth!"
          ---Man's Place in Nature (1959)

"No single type of organisms can exist alone simply by eating others of its own kind or their own waste products any more than the proverbial washer-women can live by taking in each other's laundry!"
          ---Beetles (1946)

"An animal dies. Bacterial decomposition gets under way. The vultures and jackals assemble for the feast. Or the beetles and flies fly in and the carcass becomes a heaving mass of maggots. Repugnant to our noses and disgusting to our sight! But to the higher aesthetic sensibilities the marvelous and intricate provision of nature for continuing the existence of living things on the planet."
          ---Nature and Aesthetic Value (1964)

"I thus suggest the following six biological principles: (1) the Aristotle-Darwin principle of the universality of adaptation. (2) The Redi-Pasteur principle that organisms arise only as the result of the reproduction of nearly similar parents. (3) Linnaeus's principle that living organisms exist as discrete species. (4) The Lavoisier principle that living things are physico-biochemical systems. (5) The cell theory of Schleiden and Schwann that cells are the structural and functional units of living things. (6) Darwin's principle that species have arisen through the evolution by natural selection of nearly similar but slightly different species. I suggest that every living thing can be confidently - and virtually a priori - held to exemplify each of these principles without empirical investigation."
          ---Biological Principles (1967)

"Life itself is a complex disequilibrium, now of growth over decay, now of decay over growth. The only equilibrium a living system can hope for is its own death!"
          ---Biology and Politics (1943)


On Evolution:

"This fall I have been giving Evolution (Zoology 16) for the first time, and find it quite stimulating."
          ---Scarabogram No. 4, December 1947

"...in June 1837, six months after his return to England, he opened a notebook on the nature and origin of species. For 16 months he plodded along assembling fact and speculation... In October 1838, as he tells it, he read with no serious purpose in mind the Essay on Population by Thomas Malthus, which had been published about 35 years before. And then, in a single intuitional and creative flash of genius, the theory of natural selection was born in Darwin's mind. Assuming that the unlimited tendency for population increase, which Malthus had so carefully documented for man, applied to all organisms, Darwin saw that this implied a struggle for existence which would tend to bring about a natural selection of any favorable heritable variations."
          ---Darwin's Work with Plants (1968)

"There is something about plants that seemed to make students of plant science more willing than the zoologist to accept a mechanistic explanation of their origin. Plants lack anything resembling the psyche or 'soul,' so that botanists have been able to agree to a mechanistic explanation without feeling that they were endangering their own 'immortal souls!' At any rate, whatever the explanation, botanists have accepted mechanistic theories of evolution when zoologists, confronted by the enormous complexity of the animal's nervous system, have hesitated."
          ---Darwin's Work with Plants (1968)

"Now most mutations are probably lethal to the organism in which they occur. Most of the rest are in varying degree unfavorable and are eliminated by natural selection. A few only are favorable to the organism and permitted to survive. The result is, however, that under the pressure of the geometrical ratio of increase and struggle for existence these few favorable mutations tend to be preserved and evolution is the result. It can thus be seen that a tendency toward evolution was implicit and consequent upon the properties of the first organisms."
          ---Man's Place in Nature (1959)

"There are, however, always important portions of every organism over which selection effects no influence, and these are subject to degenerative changes in accordance with the principle that the loss of genes is more frequent than their gain."
          ---An Important Factor in Evolution (1941)

"Darwin's Origin of Species brought together biological fields that had previously stood in more or less unrelated isolation. Morphology, embryology, taxonomy, ecology, zoogeography, paleontology, and the study of plants and animals under domestication were seen to be involved in unsuspected interrelationships. The idea of evolution, in its turn, reacted powerfully on each of the subject matters that originally went into it, as well as stimulated developments in other fields."
          ---The Inter-Relationships of the Biological Sciences (1948)

"It is no longer a question of whether man can be derived from ape, but rather a matter of at just what point in our fossil series ape leaves off and man begins."
          ---Science and the Crisis (1943)


On Nomenclature and Taxonomy:

"The species concept, then, represented the first great generalization of modern biology - biology at an eighteenth century level. It was a static preliminary generalization before evolutional thought and the creation of the science of chemistry opened the way for biology's further development in the centuries that followed. 'Static' and 'eighteenth century' are fighting words in many vocabularies. Especially is this true in the case of biology, where evolutionism and the experimental method have resulted in such rich scientific harvests. But one is entitled to remember that these studies require the firm descriptive basis that it is the function of the species concept to give."
          ---The Logical Basis of the Species Concept (1941)

"The scope of the research collection is much more extensive. ...there is no limit to the number of specimens of a type it should involve. It recognizes that a species is only an induction based on individual specimens and that the larger the series the more valid the induction becomes."
          ---Concerning the Insect Collection (1926)

"The binomial nomenclature overreaches itself when it pretends to name the remains of organisms whose affinities are undiscoverable or at least undiscovered."
          ---Palaeocoleopterology (1926)

"...the pervasiveness of evolution and ... the probability that no two individuals are ever precisely the same, so that the variety-namer would end up by assigning a separate designation to every specimen!"
          ---The study of color pattern...in Coleoptera (1948)

"Darwin showed that only individuals exist, and taxonomists followed by insisting on basing their studies on ever-increasing series of specimens."
          ---Coleoptera (1955)

"The notion that only individuals exist presented taxonomists with a sheer relativity, that since no two individuals are precisely the same, could end logically only with attaching a separate name to each specimen."
          ---Nameability in Taxonomy (1946)

"The individuals on which one establishes his species must be living organisms functioning and reproducing in an actual environment. Dead specimens are significant only as they represent such living organisms, and any induction based on such specimens is at least once removed from the living organisms themselves. I still remember the expression of dismay with which one of my students once countered that, if such were the case, I didn't have a single species in all the many boxes of my beetle collection!"
          ---The Logical Basis of the Species Concept (1941)

"I discover a new species. One, two, three, five specimens on the cork in front of me are the only examples known. Is the species those very examples? Or is it the description of those specimens that I publish? Or is it the more adequate description of those and sufficiently similar specimens that one of my successors may some day publish...? Or are we on the wrong track altogether and is the species none of these things, but the sum total of all the sufficiently similar individuals of this type that are living, that have lived, or that will live, irrespective of any one's description?"
          ---The Logical Basis of the Species Concept (1941)

"I have myself had the experience of giving long and careful study to a series of specimens that I suspected of being composite. I was led finally to the view that I had a single variable species; and then another author divided my 'species' into four which I was at once able to recognize as indubitably valid!"
          ---The Logical Basis of the Species Concept (1941)

"Nothing is gained by an indefinite increase in the number of the higher primary categories of our classification except an inflation of the taxonomic currency. No one, the author is convinced, really knows the difference between a family and a subfamily, a genus and a subgenus."
          ---Beetles of the Pacific Northwest, part 1, introduction (1953)

"The principal difference between species and intraspecific forms of all sorts is that the former are characterized by an absence of intermediates, at least in theory."
          ---Observations on Silphinae with a Note on Intraspecific Variations (1940)

"Species of living things are the result of massive discontinuities in the types of organisms existing at any one period of earth history."
          ---The Deduction of Evolution from the General Properties of Living Matter (1950)

"...a growing tendency in the last thirty or forty years to employ genital characters in distinguishing species, and some authors go to the extreme of regarding their figures of the genitalia as sufficient exposition of the differences involved without supplementary verbalization."
          ---Coleoptera (1955)

"In accordance with his usual custom, Casey described a large number of species founded on slight differences in size and proportions. In my opinion these are all to be regarded as varieties or synonyms. Taxonomy loses rather than gains by the sort of analysis that Casey attempted. While there are, undoubtedly, in nature genuine species to be distinguished only by the vague distinctions that Casey insisted upon, such species are not to be detected by ordinary methods of taxonomic analysis. We can well afford to assume that slight differences in size and proportion constitute individual variation until detailed biological investigations shall have shown that the organisms concerned possess indubitable and constant differences in life-cycle or habitat or exhibit kyesamechania, which is to say germinal incompatibility."
          ---The pennsylvanicus Group of Harpalus (1932)


On Men, Women, and Mankind:

"He may well have been the 'research assistant' in some of those [Aristotle's] studies and have shared the fate of many another research assistant - that of doing much of the work and receiving none of the credit."
          ---Theophrastus of Eresos as an Economic Entomologist (1938)

"At the age of 13 he decided to give his life to the collection and study of beetles. Two years later he was carrying a musket for the republic. He rose to be general of a division and Aide de Camp to Napoleon, and acquired both power and riches that survived the fall of the Empire. But he never wavered in his search for beetles. His soldiers called him the French equivalent of the 'bughouse general.'"
          ---Beetles (1946), about Count P. F. M. August Dejean (1780-1845)

"The time had arrived when coleopterists looked with increasing suspicion upon differences founded upon color or color pattern. Differences in proportion and sculpture were regarded as more significant. Casey took up with this tendency and carried it toward its logical conclusion, until at the time of his death he had published 8621 pages describing almost as many Nearctic species as all other coleopterists together."
          ---Thomas Lincoln Casey as a Coleopterist (1926)

"His interests were all in the direction of analysis. A species for him was an extremely limited group admitting little or no variation. He took evolution seriously. He decried as attacks on the inviolability of the binomial nomenclature ... the tendency ... to regard a species as a group of organisms extending over a considerable area and involving numerous subspecies and varieties ... This was loose thinking."
          ---Thomas Lincoln Casey as a Coleopterist (1926)

"Casey must be regarded as a prophet of the infinite complexity of taxonomic coleopterology. He started out with the certainty that he could describe species. He described for forty years, and was on the verge of intellectual bankruptcy when he died. He had begun to see things that he could not describe."
          ---Thomas Lincoln Casey as a Coleopterist (1926)

"The theory and logic of the law had attracted him. In practice he found it to involve such extensive elements of chicanery and dissimulation that he was permanently alienated from it."
          ---The Life of Orson Bennett Johnson (1950)

"Darwin, like many of us lesser figures, was a great procrastinator."
          ---Darwin's Work with Plants (1968)

"Gray's religion, apparently, involved no bibliolatry or otherwise interfered with the strictest scientific handling of biological data, and he was quite willing to wait on the results of the scientific investigation of species and their origin."
          ---For and against Darwin - Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz (1962)

"Agassiz' error was, in part, a philosophical one. He failed to appreciate the import for biology of the discovery that the physical sciences had already made, that science by its very methods cannot penetrate to the inner essences of things. Galileo had run onto the principle two hundred years before and Hume and Kant had formulated the matter philosophically in the eighteenth century. The issue was not whether there is a God behind nature - there may be or there may not - but whether, even if there is, the methods of science have any power to discover what His intentions in regard to the world are. In reality, the divine designs that Agassiz asserted to discover in nature were simply hypotheses in Agassiz' mind. As such they were, of course, far from valueless. Agassiz was as learned as any zoologist of his generation. But, like all hypotheses, even Agassiz' hypotheses were valid only until better ones could be devised."
          ---For and against Darwin - Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz (1962)

"Keen's next paper was entitled Three Interesting Staphylinidae from Queen Charlotte Islands... It is most noteworthy for its remarks on a beetle that Fauvel had suggested be called Haida keeni, named for the Indians with whom Keen was working and for Keen himself. Fauvel himself, however, had never gotten around to describe the species in print, so that Keen's interesting but taxonomically most inadequate remarks constitute the original description of both genus and species, and resulted in Keen being in the anomalous position of naming a species after himself!"
          ---Biographical Memoir of the Rev. John Henry Keen (1957)

"Two years ago this June there sat in my office for the first and last time Cyrus Crosby, extension entomologist of Cornell University and one of the two or three outstanding American arachnologists... He confided in me that he was in reality an entomologist only until five o'clock in the afternoon. Then he got up and went around to the other side of his desk and became an arachnologist! ...And then, less than a year later, at the age of only 56, at the height of his scientific achievement, Cy Crosby dropped dead at a scientific meeting in Rochester. Nor was I surprised. He was an enormous man, about as broad as he was tall. His heart had simply refused longer to service that mountain of flesh."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"Mrs. Fender's interest in insects is authentic. She reports 'playing with caterpillars until the fuzz wore off - this at the ripe old age of four!'"
          ---A Century of Entomology in the Pacific Northwest (1949)

"July 26 [1949, M.C.] Lane drove [Horace] Lanchester and me to Wallowa Lake in northeastern Oregon. There we met James H. Baker. ...Baker is another very energetic fellow, and at Wallowa Lake he and Lane soon disappeared up the trail, leaving Lanchester and me far far behind!"
          ---Coleopterists and Coleoptera Collections in the Pacific Northwest (1951)

"...specimens collected and labeled by him always had this peculiarity: they never carried his name as collector. He felt it to be self-seeking to attach his own name in this way. Such a notation always indicated a label prepared by someone else."
          ---Trevor Kincaid as an Entomologist (1971)

"But to pin Kincaid down to oysters or copepods or maple trees is impossible. He is a naturalist in the broadest sense of the term."
          ---Biology at the University of Washington (1939)

"After his retirement in 1947, Kincaid astonished us by fitting out and operating a hand printing press. He called it the Calliostoma Press (after a snail) and from 1951 to 1961 or after, proceeded to print long overdue reports on copepods and Thais snails... One day he mentioned that he would like to print a series of papers on the fauna of the Willapa Harbor area. The writer suggested starting with the beetles. The result was that Kincaid assembled his many summers' collecting in the area, and the writer did so with the collections he had made there from time to time, and spent a weekend in the area in 1957 adding about 50 species to the list. The result was a list of 493 species, the longest local list of beetles produced up to that time from the Pacific Northwest. The method of production revealed Kincaid at work as a printer in his mid-eighties. He would set a single page of text. Mrs. Kincaid would proof read it. Then he would bring the proof to the writer on the campus and, having run the page, redistribute the type and do another page. The result was that the 21 page paper is virtually free of typographical errors."
          ---Trevor Kincaid as an Entomologist (1971)

"Kincaid was, however, only peripherally concerned with theological and political matters. It was enough that the world was a wonderful place in which to live."
          ---Trevor Kincaid as an Entomologist (1971)

"No finer monument than this exists to the British at the apogee of their imperial and industrial power.'"
          ---Coleoptera (1955), about the beetle volumes of Biologia Centrali-Americana

"Too frequently we confine our quotations from our forerunners to the things that agree with what we now hold. Sometimes we can learn as much from the mistakes of our predecessors as from their positive achievements. And remembering their mistakes may help us to remember that we too may be making mistakes that will look equally foolish to those who come after us!"
          ---For and against Darwin - Asa Gray and Louis Agassiz (1962)

"Man is a large-brained two-legged terrestrial ape."
          ---Life and the Evolution of Man (1946)

"There are fine spun theories about woman's inferiority to man. ... What such theorists lack is a little zoology. ... There is nothing more natural about the dependent status of women in matrimony than there was natural about the institution of Negro slavery."
          ---Obstacles to Research (1938)

"I have been profoundly impressed by the Spengler-Toynbee cyclical interpretation of history, regarding it as one of the most important discoveries of the present century."
          ---Man's Place in Nature (1959)

"If man is ever to escape the squirrel cage of unending cycles, he must first determine the nature and structure of his trap!"
          ---Man's Place in Nature (1959)

"Let the student of collectivism among men consider the ant before he goes too far ... The social insect, with its stereotyped behavior and its unthinking mass action is frequently held up as an object lesson to be regarded with aversion. But it is the insect part of the ant's nature that repels us rather than the social part. Certainly no one wants to be an ant, but would one be any more enthusiastic about being a beetle? Yet that latter insect is nothing if not a rugged individualist! ... The cooperative way of doing things is vastly more efficient than the individual way. Further than this the evidence from insect societies does not go. Man's life is governed by reason and experience rather than by inherited patterns of behavior."
          ---Biology and Politics (1943)

"Both the United States and Russia prides itself that its polity is the last word in adequate democratic political organization and that its philosophy gives it the key to understanding and dominating nature. Each regards its rival as representing irresponsible tyranny and as the victim of a philosophy of illusion and self-deception. Each has glaring flaws in its own social structure, but each distracts attention from its own faults by a never ending insistence on the defects of its rival."
          ---Man's Place in Nature (1959), on the Cold War

"We hope, of course, for the prolongation of relative inaction; and perhaps the contemplated horrors of atomic war may serve as a deterrent; but all the experience of history favors the tragic forecast that eventually - in months, years, or decades - the situation will degenerate into World War III."
          ---The Natural History of the Crisis (1953), on the Cold War

"What of the outcome?
          "Perhaps man will sterilize the planet! The second law of thermodynamics will then take over pending a new biological creation!
          "Perhaps man will do no more than destroy his civilization, and leave a chastened humbled humanity to reflect on its folly and try anew!
          "Perhaps man will master his new military weapons as he has his others, and the outcome will be a victory for Russian or American world-imperialism. I personally hold this to be the most likely outcome, with the odds in favor of an American victory.
          "Or, perhaps, finally the tiger and the lion will lie down together in peace, and the instabilities inherent in the situation will express themselves in peaceful political and social change. Since Mr. Truman was reelected president anything is possible, but I hold such an eventuality to be unlikely.
          "Meanwhile, we must live our lives as though atom bombs did not exist! I busy myself with trying further to perfect my understanding of our crisis and with writing a book on the beetles of the Pacific Northwest!"
          ---A Biologist Views the Crisis (1949), on the Cold War

"Until politics becomes an experimental science there will probably be no effective control for our political troubles. I admit that I do not see just how we might try to begin to experiment in political affairs. I do not even suggest that the dangers might not outrun the immediate advantages. But I do feel certain that if we want to make politics a practical science, we must start experimenting sometime."
          ---Biology and Politics (1943)

"What is the good for which men strive? Is it exhausted by the attainment of food, clothing, shelter, security, and human companionship for one's self, one's fellows, and one's children? If so, then man is not only an animal, but he is only an animal!"
          ---The Natural Sciences and the Crisis (1944)

"The end and aim of organic matter appears to reside in this - production of more of its own kind. Let us remember this as we see human societies struggling with one another and then, if successful, growing and growing in ever widening circles until they meet untoward factors and decline or fall in ruin. Such societies are simply repeating the tendency of all organisms to increase in size. Human societies suffer one drawback, however, as compared with organisms - they have not discovered a satisfactory method of reproduction."
          ---What is Man? (1944)

"Yet the biologist most emphatically would not close the door on the possibility of further human evolution. Someday somewhere 'superman' may arise! Biology will not be surprised if he does! It has happened so frequently to other biological species in the past. Nor would biology be surprised if the human race should simply die out - for one species in nature that evolves, many simply become extinct! The very perfection of human adaptation - the widespread standardization of basic type which anthropology insists upon - the quickness with which humans resent and eliminate any marked deviation from type - these may well be factors making for the species' eventual extermination rather than its evolution!"
          ---What is Man? (1944)

"Geologically speaking, the influence of civilized man on the beetle fauna is an event of the most recent occurrence. It is in general one of restriction and redistribution rather than of extermination. Through the reclamation of vast areas for agriculture and through commerce man makes it possible for a few species enormously to extend their range and increase their numbers. At the same time he causes other species to become greatly reduced in numbers and retreat to the hedge-rows and other restricted situations. It is probably but rarely that man brings about the extermination of a species..."
          ---Palaeocoleopterology (1926)

"Too many people are just as bad as too many caterpillars or rabbits or weeds or what have you. They clog and devastate the landscape just as the lower animals do and press on the means of sustenance of each other, until, as Malthus points out, malnutrition and disease take over. Moreover, this problem of human population has an impact on the cultural value of beetles. As will be stressed in a subsequent paragraph, if beetles are to remain for humans to collect and study and enjoy, the human population must not transgress the limits that will continue to make greenbelts and parkland and woodland areas plentiful and unpolluted streamsides and lakesides and bogs available."
          ---The Cultural Value of Beetles (1967)

"Man's object should be to live in harmony with the lesser creatures by whom he is surrounded, not to aspire to an environment completely sterilized of every living thing except those few species that he fancies to be of direct utility to him!"
          ---The Aesthetic Value of Entomology (1961)

This page last updated 30 March, 2005