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Davis, John J. (1885-1965) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Davis, John J. (1885-1965)

Historical Note:

The second department head of entomology at Purdue, J. J. Davis came to Purdue in 1920 and quickly developed two activities with youth designed to foster interest in insects. The first was associated with Davis' introduction of Chinese mantids to the West Lafayette area. Following the release of the mantids, J. J. Davis took groups of school children from around the state on field trips to collect mantid egg masses. The children took the egg masses home and placed them in nearby fields. The program not only served to establish the Chinese mantid but provided an opportunity for children to learn about insects. J. J. Davis also organized an insect collection contest for youth. This insect-collecting activity became the basis for the insect project associated with 4-H programs.

In 1937 J. J. Davis compiled and selected material for "The Entomologists' Jokebook." The book was subtitled "Humorous writings and comments - wittingly and unwittingly written - of an otherwise highly important science." The book reflects the attitude of J. J. Davis that taking pleasure in our profession or making learning about insects enjoyable is an acceptable goal for entomologists.

The J.J. Davis Years:1920-1956 (MS '97, PhD '04) and Kristin Saltzman (MS '03) moved to Kansas in March. Kurt accepted a new postdoc position at Kansas State University. He was a postdoc with Christie Williams and Kristen was a lab technician for Brandi Schemerhorn. Scott Charlesworth, department web master, accepted a new web designer position in Champaign, Illinois. Ashleigh and Philip Morton (PhD candidate) welcomed their second daughter, Hazel Josephine, on March 27th. Connie and Jeff Holland had their second daughter, Gwendolyn Saige, on April 28th. Christine and Matt Ginzel were new parents to a daughter, Anna Marie Ginzel, born on June 8th. During the 36 year career of J.J. Davis, the department evolved from a small service unit into a fully functional department. The faculty grew from 3 instructors (J. Troop, W.A. Price, and J.J.) teaching service courses and conducting a limited amount of research in 1920, to 9 faculty by the mid 50s with

responsibility for a growing student population, 2 new undergraduate curricula, a new graduate program, and expanding extension and research portfolios. The entomology major was finally established in 1928, but 11 BS and 7 MS degrees were credited to the department prior to that time, probably granted either under natural history or as a special course in entomology. After the major was established,the first BS in entomology was awarded to Kenneth Haines in 1929, while the first BS in structural pest control, established in 1946, was awarded to Harlan Shuyler in 1949 (he also received the firrst MS and PhD in structural pest control in 1950 and 1954). The first PhD was given to George Gould in 1942 for his research on the striped cucumber beetle. By 1954 entomology had awarded 86 BS degrees (38 did graduate work yielding 27 MS and 4 PhD degrees, and one professional degree in medicine). Course offerings expanded from 5 in 1920 to 31 in 1954, taught mostly by J.J. Davis, B. E. Montgomery,Howard Deay and John Osmun. The entomology student organization started in 1928 was renamed the Thomas Say Society in 1931. Extension entomology at Purdue began during this period. Glen Lehker was hired in 1936 as the first full time specialist, and became famous for his "chalk talks." He also developed a 4-H entomology club program in Indiana that became the model for the national program. Other faculty with extension responsibilities included B.E. Montgomery for bees, Don Schuder for ornamental plant pests, and John Osmun for urban pests. Carlyle Carr followed by Galen Oderkirk, then later Milton Caroline and Bill Fitzwater, were part of a US Department of Interior presence in the department working on rodent control that continues today as the USDA Wildlife Conflict Management program. J.J. brokered a special relationship with the pest control industry predicated on increasing competency through training. The first Purdue Pest Control Conference was held in 1937. It attracted 68 pest control operators from 14 states. Eighteen years later, it had grown to 300 PCOs from all across the country. J.J. also started the first recorded outreach activity for children with his program to introduce Chinese mantids in Tippecanoe county in the 1920s. The research portfolio grew substantially after the end of WWII and the advent of synthetic pesticides. The focus was on general crop protection, Hessian fly host plant resistance and structural pest control including flies, termites and soil inhabiting insects, plus the new arrivals - European corn borer (1926) and Japanese beetle (1934). By 1956 the research core faculty were Howard Deay, George Gould, G.E. Marshall, B.E. Montgomery, Curt Wilson, R.T. Everly and Don Schuder. After WWII, USDA augmented their research on Hessian fly with Robert Gallun, who stayed nearly 4 decades, and moved the unit along with W. B. Cartwright and E. V. Walter into the department in 1956 - the same year USDA and USDI scientists became adjunct faculty. The foundation of the department we know today was in place by 1956 when J.J. retired and John Osmun became head.


Turpin, Tom, (2008). Outreach in Entomology at Purdue University. In Purdue University Entomology, Outreach Update. Retrieved July 30, 2009, from http://www.entm.purdue.edu/alumninews/ean/summer2007/outreach.html

Yaninek, Steve, (Spring 2008), The J.J. Davis Years: 1920-1956. In Entomology @ Purdue Newsletter. Retrieved July 30, 2009, from http://www.entm.purdue.edu/alumninews/alumni/08spring.pdf

Note Author: Mary A. Sego

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