Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Forbes, Stephen Alfred (United States 1844-1930)
entomology, ecology

Photo courtesy of "Of Time and the River".
Forbes was a major figure in Midwestern science around the turn of the century, well known as an entomologist, administrator, and professional scientist. After a sterling military career (he reached the rank of captain by the age of twenty) he turned to teaching and soon came into state employment as a naturalist. There he rapidly ascended to positions of leadership both within Illinois' state natural history survey, and the University of Illinois. Meanwhile, he was turning out a string of research reports on local elements of zoology that would eventually total some five hundred in number. The vast majority of these concerned the natural history of insects, but he also wrote on fishes and other animals. He is best known, however, for his early studies on food chain relationships, and in turn for his important anticipatory role in the development of the field of ecology. His most famous work is undoubtedly the 1887 paper "The Lake as a Microcosm," which foreshadowed the development of the ecosystem concept. In this and other works, Forbes was especially ahead of his time in recognizing various community ecology-related ideas, for example those involving predator-prey interactions.

Life Chronology

--born in Silver Creek, Illinois, on 29 May 1844.
--1862: captured in the Civil War and held prisoner for four months
--1865-1872: studies medicine, then teaches at various schools in Illinois
--1872-1877: curator, Illinois State Natural History Society Museum
--1875-1878: instructor in zoology at the Illinois State Normal University
--1877-1917: founder then director, Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History
--1880: publishes "On Some Interactions of Organisms" in the Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin
--1882-1917: Illinois state entomologist
--1884-1909: professor of zoology, University of Illinois
--1884: Ph.D., Indiana University
--1887: first publishes "The Lake as a Microcosm," in the Bulletin of the Scientific Association (Peoria)
--1888-1905: dean of the College of Science, University of Illinois
--1893, 1908: president, American Association of Economic Entomologists
--1894: founds the Biological Research Station on the Illinois River
--1901-1907: president, National Society of Horticultural Inspectors
--1905: honorary LL.D., University of Illinois
--1908: publishes his The Fishes of Illinois; president, Illinois Academy of Science
--1909-1921: professor of entomology, University of Illinois
--1912: president, Entomological Society of America; president, Ecological Society of America
--1917: made chief of the State Natural History Survey, Illinois
--1918: elected to the National Academy of Sciences
--dies at Urbana, Illinois, on 13 March 1930.

For Additional Information, See:

--American National Biography, Vol. 8 (1999).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 5 (1972).
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 22 (1932).
--American Entomologists (1971): 55-60.
--Journal of the History of Biology, Vol. 23 (1990): 461-498.
--Isis, Vol. 91(4) (2000): 681-705.
--Science, Vol. 71(1841) (1930): 378-381.
--Stephen Forbes and the Rise of American Ecology (2001).

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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