Timeline of entomology – prior to 1800

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1800-1700 B.C; the Bees of Malia: two golden bees holding a drop of honey


13,000 BC

The earliest evidence of man's interest in insects is from rock paintings; the insects depicted are bees.

1800–1700 BC

Bees were significant in other early civilisations, for instance at Malia, Crete, where jewellery depicts two golden bees holding a drop of honey.

Egypt, Greek and Roman empires[edit]

Scarab Beetle painted on wall of Rameses IX tomb c. 1000 BC

Bee-keeping was particularly well developed in Egypt and was discussed by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro and Columella.

620–560 BC

  • Aesop's Fables relate stories of grasshoppers, ants and other insects.

343 BC (circa]

  • Aristotle writes History of Animals In this work Aristotle includes insects in a class "Entoma" which also includes the arachnids and the myriapods but not the Crustacea which formed another class "Malacostraca" of the "Anaema" or "bloodless animals." ("Insecta" is the Latin translation of Aristotle’s εντομον (Entomon). Parts of Animals on zoological anatomy followed. For nearly 2000 years the few writers who dealt with zoological subjects followed Aristotle's leading.

AD 77–79


  • Rabanus Maurus authors the encyclopaedia De rerum naturis "On the Nature of Things"

10th–15th century AD[edit]

Carlo Crivelli Madonna


  • Shen Kuo described the role of predatory insects in protecting crops from insect pests.








  • Konrad of Megenberg Buch der Natur. The first natural history in the German language; the section "Von den Würmen". Written in 1350, Buch der Natur was first printed in moveable type in 1475. NCSU Libraries owns a fragment of the fourth describes insects—both real and imaginary—and reptiles.[2]

15th century[edit]

Carlo Crivelli draws an association between flies and death in a painting of the Madonna and Child.

16th century[edit]

Although the earliest pictorial record of a natural history cabinet is the engraving in Ferrante Imperato's Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples 1599) such collections became more than rudimentary early in this century.

Portrait de Conrad Gessner







17th century[edit]

Ulisse Aldrovandi


  • Ulisse Aldrovandi’s Animalibus insectis libri septem, cum singulorum iconibus AD vivum expressis published. This work was devoted to the insects and some other invertebrates


  • The Feminine Monarchie is published by Joseph Barnes, Oxford, the first full-length English-language book about beekeeping. The title expresses the main idea that the colony is governed, not by a king-bee, as Aristotle claimed, but by a queen-bee. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Butler_(beekeeper)


  • Jacob Hoefnagel Diversae Insectarum Volatium icones ad vivum accuratissimè depictae per celeberrimum pictorem. (Amsterdam), Nicolao Ioannis Visscher.




  • Joannes Jonstonus Theatrum Universale Omnium Animalium: Insectorum, Tabulis Viginti Octo ab Illo Celeberrimo Mathia Meriano, Aeri Incisis Ornatum ex Scriptoribus tam Antiquis, Quam Recentioribus – Heilbrunnensis: Franciscus Iosephus Eckebrecht, 1757 (Heilbrunnensis : Ioh. Adami Sigmundi): a compilation of Konrad Gesner’s (1516–1565) and Ulisse Aldrovandi’s (1522–1605) natural histories but plates engraved by Matthäus Merian.



1662 – (Between 1662 and 1667)

  • Jan Goedart publishes Metamorphosis and historia naturalis illustrating, by copper plate engravings, the metamorphosis of various insects.
Robert Hooke's microscope

1664 Robert Hooke publishes Micrographia.


  • Erasmus Finx Erasmi Francisci Ost- und West- Indischer wie auch Sinesischer Lust- und Stats-garten mit Einem Vorgespräch von Mancherley Lustigen Discursen; in Drey Haupt-theile Unterschieden. Nürnberg In verlegung J. A. Endters und Wolfgang dess jüngern sel. erben.



  • Johann Daniel Major Catalogus oder Index Alphabeticus von Kunst, Antiquitäten, Schatz und fürnehmlich Naturalien-Kammern, Conclavia, Musea, Repositoria, oder auch nur kleinere Serinia Rerum Naturalium Selectorum, Kiel: outlines a collection strategy for museums and lists collections.


  • Bohuslav Balbín begins Miscellanea historica regni Bohemiae with Liber naturalis – the Nature of Bohemia which contains notes on insects.



  • Jan Goedart publishes De Insectis, in methodum redactus, cum notularum additione. Opera M.Lister; item appendicis ad historiam Animalium Angliae.
  • Anton Leeuenhoek publishes Arcana Naturae Detecta.


  • Steven Blankaart Schou-Burg der Rupsen, Wormen, Maden en Vliegende Dierkens daar uit voortkomende. Door eigen ondervindinge by een gebragt in English Showplace of caterpillars, worms, maggots and flying things published in Amsterdam


Flea drawn by Buonanni (1691).

Observationes circa Viventia, quae in Rebus non Viventibus an important work.


1696 – (from 1696 to 1700)

  • Antonio Vallisneri’s Dialoghi will sopra the curiosa Origine di molti Insetti, in English, "Dialogues on the curious origin of several insects", in which he, with Francesco Redi and Malpighi, contradicts the theory of spontaneous generation of maggots.

18th century[edit]

René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur.

The development of entomology in the 18th century

In the 18th century three kinds of entomological text appeared. Firstly there were illustrative works – showy insects often beautifully coloured whose purpose was sensual. An example is afforded by Maria Sybilla Merian's Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamenis (1705).

Secondly were descriptive and systematic (classificatory) works usually confined to what are now known as the Insecta. Of the second kind Carl von Linne's 10th edition of Systema Nature published in 1758 at Stockholm stands proud. In this work the binomial system was finally settled on. Thirdly were works on developmental biology (life cycles), internal anatomy, physiology and so on; these often covered other invertebrate groups. An example is René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur's Memoires pour Servir a L’Historie des Insectes.




  • James Petiver publishes a celebrated butterfly work Lepidoptera of the Philippine Islands.
  • 1702 is also the date of the world's oldest pinned insect specimen; a Bath White butterfly preserved in Oxford University Museum.


  • Maria Sybilla Merian Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamenis (Transformations of the insects of Surinam) published by G. Valck in Amsterdam, it is a masterpiece of both art and science and Maria Merian, "the mother of entomology", was the first to record the full life cycle of many species of butterflies and moths.
  • John Ray publishes Methodus Insectorum.


  • John Ray publishes Historia insectorum in English, Study of Insects. This is the first attempt at a systematic classification of insect species.
  • Francois Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire writes on the use of spider silk as a textile. This was the first such research.


  • 1715 -Levinus Vincent publishes Wondertooneel der Nature the Wonder Theater of Nature


  • James Petiver publishes a book on British butterflies entitled Papilionum Brittaniae.


Maria Sybilla Merian


  • Moses Harris (1730–1788) born in England. Harris was a pioneer of the use of wing venation in insect systematics.


  • Mark Catesby publishes part one of The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands.


  • Scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur publishes the first Mémoires pour Servir à L’Histoire des Insectes in English, "Memoirs Serving as a Natural History of Insects". This is a founding work of entomology, and one of the most important of all zoological works of the 18th century.




  • John K’Eogh publishes Zoologica Medicinalis Hibernica, in English, "Zoological Medicine in Ireland".



  • Johan Christian Fabricius (1745–1808) is born. Fabricius worked on all insect orders.
  • Charles Bonnet published his first work on entomology. Entitled Traité d'insectologie, it collected together his various discoveries regarding insects.
Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy




  • Benjamin Wilkes publishes English Moths and Butterflies.
  • Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749–1788) commenced— 36 volumes and 8 additional volumes published after his death by Bernard Germain Étienne comte de La Ville-sur-Illon La Cépède.Until the publication of this encyclopedia it was thought that all animals were created together by God about 6,000 years ago. Not only did this 44 volume encyclopedia contain all biological knowledge of its time, it offered a different theory. 100 years before Darwin, Buffon claimed that man and ape might have a common ancestor. His work also had significant impact on ecology.






  • Tenth edition of Carl Linnaeus' Systema Naturae published. World explorers brought back to Europe so many exotic plant and animal specimens that chaos loomed for the 18th-century naturalists attempting to identify, classify, and communicate what they had gathered. Linnaeus made a great contribution to science by developing systems of classification to organize these processes, his principles of organization, especially his system of binomial nomenclature, provided essential tools for entomology. The tenth edition (1758–59), was chosen as the starting point for zoological nomenclature.
  • George Edwards Gleanings of Natural history exhibiting figures of Quadrupeds, Birds, Insects, Plants etc. London


Johann Christian Schreber


  • Naturalist and engraver Pieter Lyonnet publishes a monograph on the goat-moth caterpillar, containing details and illustrations of dissections. It is one of the best illustrated books on anatomy ever produced and describes over 4,000 muscles.


  • Jacob Hübner (1761–1826) born. Jacob Hübner was the first great world lepidopterist. Before Hübner it was held that there were few genera of Lepidoptera, a view he overthrew, his definitions of genera are among the best of the time and so were his classifications.
  • Christiaan Sepp publishes Nederlandische Insecten, in English, "Dutch insects".


  • Hans Strøm publishes as Physisk og Oeconomisk Beskrivelse over Fogderiet Søndmør I-II in Copenhagen (1762–1766).


  • Giovanni Antonio Scopoli publishes Entomologia Carniolica.
  • Johann Wilhelm Meigen (1763–1845) born. Meigen began to work on Diptera at the age of twenty five; the first specialist in Diptera Meigen described a vast number of European species and his work on gross taxonomy laid the foundations of the present higher classification of the Order. Unlike his Swedish contemporary Carl Friedrich Fallen he based higher categories on a combination of characters not following Fabricius in using mouthpart characters alone; this new approach was controversial.
  • Centuria Insectorum by Carl Linnaeus defended as a thesis by Boas Johansson


  • Carl Friedrich Fallen (1764–1830) born. Johan Christian Fabricius attended Linnaeus’s lectures on natural classification, he was one of Linnaeus' most important pupils.
  • Étienne Louis Geoffroy published Histoire des Insectes.


  • Johann Eusebius Voet Catalogus Systematicus Coleopterorum published.
  • Job Baster Opuscula subseciva, observationes miscellaneae de animalculis et plantis quibusdam eorum ovariis et seminibus continentia. Haarlem


  • Moses Harris publishes The Aurelian or Natural History of English Insects, namely Moths and Butterflies. This was the first book on the British Lepidoptera. Harris was a pioneer in using wing venation in insect systematics. A more modern revision did not appear until 1803.



  • Johann Reinhold Forster publishes A Catalogue of British Insects at Warrington, England – “This catalogue contains 1000 insects; the Swedes have near 1700, it would therefore be an honour to this country to scrutinize carefully into the various branches of Natural History, and to give the public as perfect and extensive catalogues of British Animals as possible”.
  • Dru Drury, 1770–1782 Illustrations of natural history, wherein are exhibited figures of exotic insects, a three-volume work commenced at London.
  • Christian Rudolph Wilhelm Wiedemann (1770–1840) born. He was a specialist in Diptera (world species).


  • Johann Reinhold Forster produces first list of American insects.
  • William Curtis publishes Instructions for collecting and preserving insects; particularly moths and butterflies. Illustrated with a copper-plate, on which the nets, and other apparatus necessary for that purpose are delineated…




  • John Coakley Lettsome The naturalist's and traveler's companion, containing instructions for collecting and preserving objects of natural history and for promoting inquiries after human knowledge in general, London: E. and C. Dilly (1774): a much used work on collecting.
  • Johann Bernhard Basedow publishes Elementarwerk, in English "Elementary Book" which includes sections on natural history and insects.


  • First part of Pieter Cramer's 1775–82 De Uitlandische Kapellen (Papillons Exotiques de Trois Partes de Monde published.
  • Johan Christian Fabricius' Systema entomologica published.





  • Jacob Christian Schäffer Icones insectorum circa ratisbonam indigenorum coloribus naturam referentibus expressaepublished.
  • 1779-1780 Johann Friedrich Blumenbach Handbuch der Naturgeschichte. 12 editions and some translations. Published first in Göttingen by J. C. Dieterich




  • Encyclopédie Méthodique commenced. Its popularity and ubiquity later ensuring the entomological tableau which appeared from 1817 onwards had a wide audience.
  • Clas Bjerkander Insect-Calender, för år 1781. Kongliga Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar 3 (4–6): 122–132. Stockholm.



  • Publication, in Berlin, of Carl Gustav Jablonsky and Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Herbst Natursystem aller bekannten in- und ausländischen Insecten, als eine Fortzetsung der von Büffonschen Naturgeschichte. Nach dem System des Ritters Carl von Linné bearbeitet or, in English, "Natural system of all well-known in [Europe] and foreign Insects, as a continuation of Buffon’s natural history. After the system of the honoured master, Carl von Linné"; this is a superbly illustrated work on world and European Coleoptera. Jablonsky was private secretary to the Queen of Prussia.
  • Johann Wilhelm Zetterstedt (1785–1874) born. Zetterstedt worked mainly on Diptera.
  • Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy Entomologia Parisiensis, sive, Catalogus insectorum quae in agro Parisiensi reperiuntur ..., co-written with Étienne Louis Geoffroy, published in this year, was a major contribution to systematic entomology.




  • Linnean Society of London founded. The Society published many important works on insects.
  • Caspar Stoll Representation des Spectres ou Phasmes, des Mantes...Sauterelles des Grillons et des Blattes published. This work contains beautiful plates of praying mantis species.
  • Guillaume-Antoine Olivier Entomologie ou Histoire Naturelle des Insectes, avec leurs Caracteres Generiques et Specifiques, leur Description, leur Synonomie et leur Figure Illuminee. Coleopteres. commenced publication in Paris. The first volumes preceded Latreille's in time and the system used was a combination of Linne and Fabricius.
  • Johann Wilhelm Meigen commences study of Diptera.
  • Naturhistorieselskabet founded in Denmark
  • Johann Jacob Roemer Genera Insectorum Linnaei et Fabricii, Iconibus Illustrata published.
  • Carl Peter Thunberg Dissertatio Entomologica Novas Insectorum species sistens, cujus partem quintam. Publico examini subjicit Johannes Olai Noraeus, Uplandus. Upsaliae published.
  • Johann Kaspar Füssli Neue Magazin für Liebhaber der Entomologie (last part 1786).
  • Charles Joseph Devillers publishes Caroli Linnaei entomologia


  • August Batsch Versuch einer Anleitung, zur Kenntniß und Geschichte der Thiere und Mineralien, für akademische Vorlesungen entworfen, und mit den nöthigsten Abbildungen versehen. Zweyter Theil. Besondre Geschichte der Insekten, Gewürme und Mineralien, in English Provisional guide to the knowledge, development and history of the animals and minerals, designed for academic lectures Part 2 The particular history of insects, on worms, and minerals.



  • John Curtis (1791–1862) born.
  • Johann Ludwig Christ publishes Naturgeschichte, Klassifikation und Nomenklatur der Insekten vom Bienen, Wespen und Ameisengeschlecht.


  • The Dublin Society purchases the natural history collection of Nathaniel Gottfried Leske containing 2,500 species of insects from Europe and the “rest of the World”. The sale catalogue was titled Museum Leskeanum. Pars entomologica ad systema entomologiae. CL. Fabreicii ordinata etc.. Leske was from Leipzig and the collection contained (s) Johan Christian Fabricius’ and Johann Friedrich Gmelin's types as well as his own.
  • Edward Donovan The Natural history of British Insects commenced publication in London.
  • Josef Aloys Frölich, Bemerkungen über einige seltene Käfer aus der Insektensammlung des Herrn Hofr. und Prof. Rudolph in Erlangen. Der Naturforscher 26: 68–165, Halle.




  • John Abbot and James Edward Smith The Natural History of the Rarer Lepidoptera of Georgia. A masterwork with than 100 beautifully coloured plates.
  • Pierre André Latreille. Precis des Caracteres Generiques des Insectes disposes dans un Ordre Naturel published, it proposed “ Natural classes and genera are based not only on the mouthparts, the wings or the antennae, but on careful observation of the entire structure, even of the smallest differences”.
  • Jean Victoire Audouin (1797–1841) born.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://gallica.bnf.fr/?&lang=EN online
  2. ^ "Book of Nature". World Digital Library. 1481-08-20. Retrieved 2013-08-27. Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]