Contributions of deaf people to entomology: A hidden legacy

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  • 1 Professor Emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester, USA
  • 2 2Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, 10 and Constitution Avenue, Washington, District of Columbia 20560, USA, e-mail: blayj@si.edu

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Despite communication challenges, deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals made many new discoveries during the emergence of entomology as a scientific discipline. In the 18th century, Switzerland’s naturalist Charles Bonnet, a preformationist, investigated parthenogenesis, a discovery that laid the groundwork for many scientists to examine conception, embryonic development, and the true, non-preformationist nature of heredity. In the 19th century, insect collectors, such as Arthur Doncaster and James Platt-Barrett in England, as well as Johann Jacob Bremi-Wolf in Switzerland, developed specialized knowledge in several insect orders, particularly the Lepidoptera. In contrast, the contributions to entomology of Fielding Bradford Meek and Leo Lesquereux in the United States stemmed from their paleontological studies, while the work of Simon S. Rathvon and Henry William Ravenel in economic entomology and botany, respectively, was derived from their strong interests in plants. These and other contributors found ways to overcome the isolation imposed upon them by deafness and, as a group, deaf and hard-of-hearing scientists established a legacy in entomology that has not been previously explored.

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