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Edward S. Ross

Posted by Janet on April 22, 2008

Edward S. Ross, curator emeritus of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences, is the leading entomologist studying insects of the order Embiidina, web-spinning insects related to stoneflies, termites, and earwigs. Now ninety-three years old, Edward Ross continues to publish his lifelong study in comparative anatomy of embiids.

Lifetime Expedition
As a young boy, Edward Ross collected numerous insects–over 50,000 by the time he graduated high school. However, due to the influence of his father, an artist specializing in pen and ink illustration, Ross initially planned to become an illustrator. When he realized that illustrators spend most of their times indoors, he took a quick turn to entomology and eventually earned a Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley for the study of Embiidina in 1941.

During World War II, while serving as a 1st Lt-Major, Ross worked on mosquito identification and malaria surveys in New Guinea and Philippines. It was during this time that he met and took interest in tribal cultures. This interest continues and over the next few decades he would photograph people of all ethnicities on his travels.

After the war, Ross returned to the California Academy of Sciences where he previous worked for a brief period. For his studies, he traveled to Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia while publishing numerous works. Upon his return from the Andes in the early 1950s, he took up insect photography and wrote the book “Insects Close Up” based on his photographs. The majority of the 50s and 60s were spent outdoors. From 1970 to 1975, Ross taught insect biology at U.C. Berkeley.

Ross now has approximately 350,000 embiids in his collection and works in the home that he began to build following World War II. He continues to build additions to the house (with some help from others) to house his works. Until the past few years, the majority of embiid drawings were made by Ross himself. With the help of many illustrators in recent years, new illustrations of unpublished species are being made and his illustrations are being archived into digital format.

Ross is in the process of writing a book on insect-flower relationship. He also plans to write a book on people of the world. He still publishes journal papers and holds exhibits for his photography works.

The next post will cover my recent visit with Edward Ross, including images of his illustrations and a recent publication. Here is a list of links on Dr. Ross:

Publication list:
Interview by Bay Nature, 2005:
Entomologist David Rentz’s blog entry:
Some insect photography work:
An Article by Ross in California Wild:

4 Responses to “Edward S. Ross”

  1. John Wall said

    Wow, what a fascinating man. I’ll check out those links.

  2. John Wall said

    BTW, the Bay Nature and CalWild links don’t work. David Rentz’s blog was cool, and it was funny to run across a reference to the Camera Trap Codger since I enjoy that blog myself.

  3. Katie said

    Hi, Janet. We’ve never met. I’ve linked to your posts, because blogs like John’s remind me of Ed’s pioneering macro photography. I worked with Ed and Sandy on a 2008 museum exhibit and enjoyed an overnight visit in their Tea House. Ed’s extensive, dry-laid stone paths impressed me as an insight into his well-organized mind. Sandy asked me to help him publish a couple of embiid papers and a photo book (however, not the one I would have chosen), but the timing didn’t work out for me. Are you still in contact with them?

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