Moths, Myths, and Mosquitoes: The Eccentric Life of Harrison Dyar

Hardcover | February 10, 2016

byMARC EPSTEIN

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On September 26, 1924, the ground collapsed beneath a truck in a back alley in Washington, D.C., revealing a mysterious underground labyrinth. In spite of wild speculations, the tunnel was not the work of German spies, but rather an aging, eccentric Smithsonian scientist named Harrison GrayDyar, Jr. While Dyar's covert tunneling habits may seem far-fetched, they were merely one of many oddities in Dyar's unbelievable life. For the first time, insect biosystemist Marc E. Epstein presents a complete account of Dyar's life story. Dyar, one of the most influential biologists of the twentieth century, focused his entomological career on building natural classifications of various groups of insects. His revolutionaryapproach to taxonomy, which examined both larval and adult stages of insects, brought about major changes in the scientific community's understanding of natural relationships and insect systematics. He was also the father of what came to be known as Dyar's Law, a pragmatic method to standardizeinformation on insect larval stages as they grow. Over the course of his illustrious career at the U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution from 1897-1929, Dyar named over 3,000 species, established the "List of North American Lepidoptera," an unrivaled catalog of moths and butterflies, andbuilt one of the nation's premier lepidoptera and mosquito collections. However, Dyar's scientific accomplishments are a mere component of this remarkable biography. Epstein offers an account of Dyar's complicated personal life, from his feuds with fellow entomologists to the scandalous revelation that he was married to two wives at the same time. Epstein alsochronicles Dyar's exploration of the Baha'i faith, his extensive travels, his innumerable works of unpublished fiction, and the loss of his wealth from bad investments. Comprehensive and engaging, Moths, Myths, and Mosquitoes will delight entomologists and historians alike, as well as anyoneinterested in exploring the zany life of one of America's virtually unknown scientific geniuses.

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On September 26, 1924, the ground collapsed beneath a truck in a back alley in Washington, D.C., revealing a mysterious underground labyrinth. In spite of wild speculations, the tunnel was not the work of German spies, but rather an aging, eccentric Smithsonian scientist named Harrison GrayDyar, Jr. While Dyar's covert tunneling habits...

Marc E. Epstein is Senior Insect Biosystematist for Lepidoptera at the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution. He researches and writes on evolution and classification of moths and their biodiversity, and develops identification tool...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:360 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:February 10, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190215259

ISBN - 13:9780190215255

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Table of Contents

PART I: PREPARATORY STAGES1. The Dyars and the Hannums: An Earlier Generation2. Dyar, Jr: Early Growth Stages and Development3. Collecting and Rearing Lepidoptera, and Dyar's Law: 1882-18914. Long Collecting Trips and Sawflies: 1889-18975. Postgraduate Education: Classification of Moths and Bacteria6. Genealogy of the Limacodidae and the Dyars7. Last Days in New York, L.O. Howard, and a Move to the U.S. National MuseumPART II: BEGINNING A NEW LIFE AT THE USNM AND IN WASHINGTON8. Life in the District of Columbia and Wellesca Pollock9. Building the National Collection, Dyar's "List of Lepidoptera," and the Entomological Society of Washington10. Battle of the Titans Smith and Dyar, and Their New Love - The "Skeets"11. Collecting Moths, Mosquitoes, and Travels: 1901-190912. Literature Wars and Last Battles with Smith13. Advances and Conflicts in Professional Life as a Lepidopterist: 1907-1914PART III: MRS. ALLEN, DIVORCES, AND THE AFTERMATH OF THE SCANDAL14. Wellesca's Baha'i Faith, New Wealth and Growing Concerns by Zella as Dyar's Life Begins to Unravel: 1906-190815. Marriage Troubles16. The Separation 191517. Divorce Wranglings in Reno18. Divorces, Appeals, and Bigamy19. After the Scandal, Dismissal, and Friend Knab: 1917-1918PART IV: THE FINAL DECADE: ATTEMPTS AT REINSTATEMENT20. The National Collection of Lepidoptera, its Workers, and Their Tiffs: 1920s21. Mosquitoes and Pursuit of Reinstatement22. Dyar and His Tunnels23. Personal Life and Baha'is in the 1920s24. Unity in the UNSM Lepidoptera Section and Acquiring the Barnes Collection25. Final Days: Trip West, Projects, and as Custodian26. Financial Collapse and Final Push for ReinstatementEpilogue