Many arthropod collections
have been lost over time though floods, fire and war, through carelessness
or neglect (and hence destroyed by dermestids, for example), and for other
reasons. Specialized collections built up in a small institution by a
single individual who then retires are at particular risk of neglect, but
large and well established collections have been destroyed too. Here are a
Thomas Say collected
extensively in North America and described many species of different taxa.
Upon his death in 1834 at the age of 47, his collection was given to the
Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. In 1836 it was sent to T.W.
Harris in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but most of the material was destroyed
by dermestids and by the rough stagecoach ride, and relatively few
Asa Fitch (1803-1879)
described many species from galls, but some of the type material is lost.
For example, deposited in the United States National Museum is a pin that
has no insect but carries only Fitch’s original label for the type
specimen of the cynipid gall inquiline Ceroptres quercusarbos.
B.D. Walsh (1808-1869)
collected about 10,000 specimens for the Illinois Natural History Survey
starting in about 1860. Most of his collection was sent from Springfield
to Chicago in 1871 for safe-keeping, but was destroyed later that year in
the Chicago Fire, and only the synoptic collection left in Springfield
J.J. Kieffer assembled an
extensive personal collection of Diptera, especially through the early
1900s, but most of it has been destroyed, including all of the neotropical
type specimens of Tephritidae described by Kieffer and Jorgenson for
The collection of the
German lepidopterist G.A.W. Herrich-Schäfer was deposited in the
Zoologische Staatssammlung, Münich, but apparently most of it was
destroyed by bombing during the second world war.
The Norwegian taxonomist
Sig Thor described many species of mites, but – apparently in anger at
criticism by some colleagues – his will specified that his collection
including all of the type material should be incinerated, a wish duly
carried out by his wife during World War II.