This is Part Five of a five-part series on Famous Female Entomologists, in honor of the 32nd Annual Insect Fear Film Festival (February 28, 2015), the theme of which is Female Entomologists. (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)
By Tanya Josek
Dr. Berta Scharrer (1906-1995) was an extraordinary scientist. Her work was not only thorough, but also groundbreaking. Berta and her husband Ernst pioneered a new discipline in neuroscience — neuroendocrinology. Whereas Ernst always held a fully paid economic position (first in Germany and then in the United States) while working on vertebrates, Berta was forced due to nepotism rules to often work freelance and on more readily-available invertebrates. Berta’s husband Ernst received new job positions every few years, so they moved frequently. This made Berta’s academic career tougher — with every move she had to find lab space, accept the fact that she would not be paid nor have academic status, and prove to her new male co-workers that she was a force to be reckoned with. In addition, her insect models were not considered as interesting as the vertebrate models.
Eventually, Berta started to receive recognition for her work. She was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1967, and she was given the National Medal of Science in 1985. Dr. Berta Scharrer did her research because she was driven by the questions she wanted to answer, despite the fact that she had no academic title and never received equal pay for any of her work. After reading about her life, it’s easy to see that Berta Scharrer was a truly phenomenal female entomologist and an inspiration to us all.
I wrote this blog post about Dr. Berta Scharrer in hopes that I can both accurately portray major points in Berta’s life and make the blog interesting to read. Since many entomologists, including myself (@tany4nyta), utilize Twitter to share information, I decided to set up this blog post in Twitter format. If you want more information about this amazing entomologist, click on the Twitter handles and links below. Enjoy!
October 15th 1936
Feeling the full effect of Law for the Restoration of the German Civil Service (#LRGCS). I can’t believe so many people have been fired
December 20th 1937
German may be my native tongue, but this year I’ve published two papers in English! This was definitely an #accomplishment
June 3rd 1938
Found Leucophaea maderae (woodroaches) in a shipping container – these guys are larger and slower than American roaches. #newresearchsubject
November 3rd 1945
DYK that removing both an insect’s corpus allatum & corpus cardiacum cause tumors? Find out why in my new publication! goo.gl/ZuyKAo
August 20th 1955
My L. maderae roaches have arrived! #timetowork
July 3rd 1961
The lectures @ErnstScharrer and I gave at Columbia are going to be the basis for a new book called Neuroendocrinology!
May 8nd 1963
Our Neuroendocrinology book has been #published!
June 1st 1965
Although the loss of my husband has been hard, I will be acting chair in the anatomy dept & getting back to research finally with a #salary
December 29th 1967
I have been elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences #whatayear
October 16th 1970
Invertebrates cant have problems with neurosecretion or can they? Find out in my new paper http://bit.ly/1DClozj co-authored by M. Weitzman
May 31st 1972
Looking at cytophysiological features of cockroach hemocytes using an electron microscope in my newly published paper http://bit.ly/1ABnvo1
February 12th 1981
Working w/@GeorgeStefano Georg Hansen & Bente Hansen looking at invertebrate neurosecretory cells & neuropeptides regulate the immune system
December 29th 1983
I can’t believe that this past year I was awarded Schleiden Medal of the Leopoldina and @RonaldReagan awarded me National Medal of Science
April 12th 1991
I have a cockroach named after me – Escala scharrerae! Thank you @LouisMRoth for the honor
Tanya Josek is an M.S. graduate student at the University of Illinois. Her main research focuses on tick sensors, specifically the Haller’s organ. She is currently looking at the morphology of the Haller’s organ, the receptors present in the organ, and how to utilize this organ for Bioinspiration. Additionally, she has a passion for education and loves to participate in many outreach events — one of her favorites being UIUC’s own BugScope. In her spare time she volunteers at UIUC’s community Fabrication Lab, where she helps local Champaign-Urbana residents with various projects as well as work on her own glass and wood projects. Follow her on Twitter at @tany4nyta.