Elwood Zimmerman

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Elwood Curtin Zimmerman AM (born in Spokane, Washington on December 8, 1912; died in Tura Beach, New South Wales on June 18, 2004) was an American entomologist best known for his two multivolume series: Insects of Hawaii published by the University of Hawaiʻi Press and Australian Weevils (Coleoptera: Curculionoidea) published by Australia's CSIRO. [1]



During his school years in the hills above Oakland, California, where his father was a woodworker, he developed such a passion for entomology that he acquired the nickname "Bugs." He would go on summer camping trips organized by the Boy Scout leader "Bugsy" Cain, and developed a circle of boyhood friends who went on to become entomologists, including Robert L. Usinger, Judson Linsley Gressitt, and E. Gorton Linsley. At first he collected butterflies, but began to concentrate on weevils at the suggestion of a professor at the nearby University of California, Berkeley. During a camping trip in 1930, he discovered a new species of weevil that became the subject of his first academic publication, in 1932, soon after enrolling in UC Berkeley, where he received a B.S. degree in 1936. [2]

On the basis of his considerable field experience and his earlier work mounting specimens of Hawaiian and Pacific insects for the Pacific Entomological Survey, which was then headquartered at UC Berkeley, his mentors there recommended him to serve as the field entomologist on the Bernice P. Bishop Museum's Mangarevan Expedition to southeastern Polynesia in 1934. His senior colleagues on that expedition gave him a new, lifelong nickname, "Zimmie," and his close-up encounters with a wide variety of island ecosystems gave him a new, enduring passion for biogeography. [3]

He settled in Honolulu in 1936, where he worked as an entomologist for the Bishop Museum and conceived the idea for a single-author, multivolume Insects of Hawaii monograph modeled on the Insects of Western North America (1926) by his Berkeley mentor, Edward Oliver Essig. By 1946, he had completed the first five volumes, but Bishop Museum director Peter H. Buck was more eager to publish new works in anthropology than in entomology, so Zimmie turned instead to the University of Hawaiʻi, whose president, Gregg M. Sinclair, agreed to publish the volumes under the auspices of the newly established University of Hawaiʻi Press. The first five volumes finally appearedto considerable local and international acclaimin 1948, the same year that their author received a Fulbright fellowship to work at the British Natural History Museum on its large holdings of Hawaiian insects, many of them collected by R. C. L. Perkins over a period of 25 years beginning in the 1890s, at a time when many native fauna were disappearing. [4]

Zimmie spent most of the next two decades living on grant money and private funds, in London as an honorary associate of the British Museum and in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where he had easy access to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. He completed a Ph.D. from the University of London in 1956, published three more volumes of Insects of Hawaii in 195758, and prepared one more that languished in the pipeline until 1978. [5] He was also made a life-fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1957. [1]

Meanwhile, back in Honolulu, D. Elmo Hardy and others began publishing further volumes of Insects of Hawaii devoted to the exceptionally rich variety of Diptera (true flies) in the islands, a variety Zimmie had called attention to in a short contribution to Evolution in 1958 with the provocative title, "300 insect species of Drosophila in Hawaii?A challenge to geneticists and evolutionists" (Evolution 12, pp. 557–558).

This paper helped stimulate one of the most outstanding and scientifically rewarding long-term, multidisciplinary research efforts in the history of evolutionary biology, encompassing systematics, genetics, ecology, and ethology of the Drosophila complex. [6]

By the 1970s, however, Zimmie had trouble securing the funds needed to keep working on Insects of Hawaii and ended up accepting a generous offer from Douglas Waterhouse at Australia's CSIRO to turn his attention to producing another ambitious multivolume monograph, this time on Australian Weevils. By 1990, he had the first five volumes ready to publish, only to find that funding for this project, too, had dried up. He and his wife sold much of their estate, not just to subsidize publication, but also to endow an ongoing position at CSIRO for research on Pacific weevils. In 1992, they moved from their cattle ranch near Canberra to a home and laboratory on Tura Beach, where Zimmie spent his remaining years. [7]

Among the awards Zimmie received for his life's work were a fellowship to the Entomological Society of America in 1946;v a D.Sc. from the University of London in 1980; the Karl Jordan Medal for his work on Hawaiian Lepidoptera in 1983; [8] the Herbert E. Gregory Medal at the Pacific Science Congress in Beijing in 1995; [9] and Member of the Order of Australia [10] and the University of Hawaiʻi Regents' Medal of Distinction in 1998.

Insects of Hawaii

The Insects of Hawaii series, now under the editorship of James K. Liebherr of Cornell University, aims to provide a collaborative, comprehensive, taxonomy of all known Hawaiian insect fauna. So far, more than 5,000 native arthropod species have been described. Only vols. 1, 16, and 17 are still in print, [11] but the out-of-print volumes are being scanned and added to the University of Hawaii's digital repository, ScholarSpace.

The out-of-print volumes follow:

Australian Weevils

Australian Weevils (Coleoptera: Curculionoidea) is an 8-volume, comprehensive monograph that includes all the recorded species, with notes about their distributions, economic importance, host plants, and life histories, amply illustrated with roughly 10,000 images, over half of them in color. The following volumes are still in print. [12]

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  1. 1 2 Upton & Oberprieler 2004.
  2. Juvik 2001, p. xviii.
  3. Juvik 2001, p. xviii-xx.
  4. Juvik 2001, p. xx-xxiii.
  5. Juvik 2001, p. xxiii-xxiv.
  6. Juvik 2001, p. xxiv.
  7. Juvik 2001, p. xxiv-xxvi.
  8. "The Lepidopterists' Society" . Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  9. "The Herbert E. Gregory Medal" . Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  10. "Dr Elwood Curtin Zimmerman". It's an Honour. Retrieved 2020-04-05.
  11. "University of Hawaii Press: Insects of Hawaii" . Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  12. "CSIRO Publishing: Australian Weevils" . Retrieved September 8, 2019.

Further reading