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The Lives and Careers of Entomologists Ernest J. Harris and Margaret Collins

Ernest Harris and Margaret Collins

Ernest J. Harris, Ph.D. (1928-2018), left, and Margaret Collins, Ph.D. (1922–1996), right, were honored via the Entomological Society of America’s Founders’ Memorial Award Lecture in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Harris was a distinguished entomologist internationally recognized for his work on fruit fly eradication and techniques for mass rearing of insects used for biological control. Collins was a legendary entomologist and civil rights advocate whose five-decade career earned her the nickname “Termite Lady,” for her foundational contributions to scientific understanding of termite desiccation resistance.

In each of the past two years, the Founders’ Memorial Award Lecture at the ESA Annual Meeting has featured the career and accomplishments of a pioneering Black entomologist. February is Black History Month, and to mark the occasion Entomology Today is featuring the recordings of those presentations here.

The Founders’ Memorial Award was established in 1958 to honor the memory of scientists who made outstanding contributions to entomology. Each year at the ESA Annual Meeting, the recipient of the award delivers the Founders’ Memorial Lecture, the topic of which is a deceased entomologist.

2020: Ernest J. Harris (1928-2018), honored by Michelle Samuel-Foo

At Entomology 2020, Michelle Samuel-Foo, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Alabama State University, delivered the Founders’ Memorial Award Lecture. Her presentation honored Ernest J. Harris, Ph.D. (1928-2018), a distinguished entomologist internationally recognized for his work on fruit fly eradication and techniques for mass rearing of insects used for biological control. Harris authored hundreds of papers and was recognized with honors including a place in the USDA-Agricultural Research Service Hall of Fame and the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian awards in the United States. Samuel-Foo was the first Black woman to be awarded the Founders’ Memorial Award, and Harris was the first Black entomologist to be the subject of the Founders’ Memorial Lecture in the award’s history.


2021: Margaret Collins (1922–1996), honored by Vernard Lewis

At Entomology 2021, Vernard Lewis, Ph.D., BCE, emeritus cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, delivered the Founders’ Memorial Award Lecture. His presentation honored Margaret Collins, Ph.D. (1922–1996), a legendary Black entomologist and civil rights advocate whose five-decade career earned her the nickname “Termite Lady,” for her foundational contributions to scientific understanding of termite desiccation resistance. When Collins earned her doctorate in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1950, she was just the third Black woman in the U.S. to do so and the first specializing in entomology.


Learn More

Founders’ Memorial Award,” nominations/applications due April 18, 2022

Entomological Society of America

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