Even as we bring the plant bug collection into the modern age through digitization, it is important not to forget the collectors of the past. Their endless devotion to the study and appreciation of insects helped to build up the American Museum of Natural History's insect collection into a world-class resource containing millions of specimens.
Each insect in the collection has a tag which indicates the location where it was collected and who collected it, among other information. As many of these specimens were collected half a century ago or longer it can be easy to forget that each one was collected by an entomologist with a unique story to tell. This entry focuses on one particular collector whose name continually reappears in our mirid and membracid collection as we carry out the digitization effort.
Annie Trumbull Slosson made innumerable contributions to the field of entomology in addition to botany and fiction. Born in 1838, her interest in biology began early with a passion for botany. Although this interest in natural sciences originated when she was young, her studies in entomology did not begin until she was 48 years old. Once she began, however, she quickly amassed a notable insect collection containing many rare or newly discovered species including specimens from areas where she was among the first collectors. In doing so she earned the respect of her colleagues, though she had no formal training in the field. In fact she was so prolific in her collecting that close to 100 species of insects have been named in honor of her.
Zethus slossonae,one of the many insects named for Annie Trumbull Slosson.
(Photo Credit:Sean McCann, under Creative Commons from Flickr.com)
In July 1892, the New York Society of Entomologists was formed. A few months later, Annie Trumbull Slosson became the first woman to join the society. At the time, women were mostly excluded from science and she recalled how the men of the Society had “startled, embarrassed faces” upon her first arrival. She herself was unfazed, and in just a few minutes “all were at our ease.” She was an influential member of the society, writing the first article for the first issue of the society’s journal and donating rare specimens to their fundraising auctions. The society often met in her home and later she arranged for meetings to be held here at the AMNH.
In addition to writing in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society, Slosson had articles published in virtually all of the entomological journals of the day as well as several botanical journals. She was well known for this work but also for an entirely different kind of writing as well. She was a prolific author and was well known for her short stories. Humorously, fans of her stories were mostly unaware of her scientific pursuits and were often startled when they visited and found her shelves filled with boxes of insects rather than books.
Her dual passions for science and literature enhanced each other rather than conflicting. Her stories were filled with rich details from the natural world, while her scientific papers were praised for their entertaining and fascinating style. She believed that literature and entomology were complimentary, and commented that each made “a good running mate for the other.”
Annie Trumbull Slosson passed away in 1926, but her work lives on. It remains in her numerous published papers and stories as well as in the AMNH collection, to which she donated her 35,000 insect specimens. It also remains as we remember her today, as a pioneering scientist and author who shared her boundless love and enthusiasm for nature with the world.
“Annie Trumbull Slosson”, Wikipedia.com
“A Short History of the Society”, New York Entomological Society.
Davis, Wm. T. “Annie Trumbull Slosson.” Journal of the New York Entomological Society, 34, 1926.
Slosson, A.T. “Entomology and Literature.” Bulletin of the Brooklyn Entomological Society, Volume 11, 1916.
Slosson, A.T. “Reminisces of The Early Days of the New York Entomological Society.” Journal of The New York Entomological Society, Volume 26, 1918.