The Gilbert L. Woodside Professor of Zoology at UMass Amherst from 1975-1993, Vincent Dethier was an authority on the biophysics of insect chemosensation and neuroethology. Born in Boston in 1915 into a family of accomplished musicians, Dethier received his doctorate at Harvard in 1939 for a study of the feeding behavior of swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. After service with the Army Air Corps in North Africa and the Middle East during the Second World War and a stint at the Army Chemical Center in Maryland, he resumed his academic career, joining the zoology faculty at Ohio State, Johns Hopkins (1947-1958), the University of Pennsylvania (1958-1967), and Princeton (1967-1975) in succession. His appointment at UMass marks the founding of the university’s program in Neuroscience and Behavior. In addition to over 170 scholarly papers and five scholarly monographs on insect physiology, Dethier wrote several popular works on natural history as well as short stories and children’s books. The recipient of numerous honors during his academic career, Dethier was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1960), the National Academy of Sciences (1965), and the American Philosophical Society (1980), and was recipient of the Entomological Society of America’s Founders’ Memorial Award (1967) and the John Burroughs Medal (1993) for nature writing.
Documenting his post-World War II career, Vincent Dethier’s correspondence relates to scientific organizations, publishing, travel, and speaking engagements, with somewhat sparser information on his research. There are also a handful of photographs, including a series of lantern slides from Dethier’s work in Africa, as well as a scrapbook, a complete set of his publishing scientific papers, and a sampling of short stories and creative writing.
- University of Massachusetts Amherst--Faculty
- University of Massachusetts Amherst. Biology Department
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