- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The book, published by Oxford University Press, will be available for purchase that night or attendees may bring their own copy for signing.
The event is co-sponsored by Jay Rosenheim, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and by the department. Epstein is a longtime research associate and friend of Rosenheim's.
Epstein is a senior insect biosystematist for the order Lepitopdera (butterflies, moths) with the Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture. He is a research associate for the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution.
Harrison G. Dyar Jr. (1866-1929) was a Smithsonian entomologist of the early 20th century. He was a taxonomist who published extensively on moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera), mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae), and sawflies (Hymenoptera: Symphyta). As a teenager, he studied insects, particularly moths. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1889 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his master's degree in biology from Columbia University in 1894. His doctoral dissertation (1895) dealt with airborne bacteria in New York City.
"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 Gray Dyar, 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 biosystematist 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 revolutionary approach 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 standardize information 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, and built 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 also chronicles 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 anyone interested in exploring the zany life of one of America's virtually unknown scientific geniuses."
Epstein researches and writes on evolution and classification of moths and their biodiversity, and develops identification tools for moths that threaten agriculture. He served with NMNH's Department of Entomology (1988-2003), co-founding the department's Archives and Illustration Archives.
Epstein's research on caterpillars, including images and videos, is featured in the NMNH exhibit "More than Meets the Eye." He was a guest on NPR's "Fresh Air" about his work on the book "Night Visions: the Secret Design of Moths." Epstein's published work includes a Smithsonian monograph on limacodid moths and the article "Digging for Dyar: the Man Behind the Myth" with Pamela M. Henson.
Epstein received his master's degree (1982) and doctorate (1988) from the University of Minnesota.
For more information on the April 28th event, contact Jay Rosenheim at firstname.lastname@example.org.