Communication of discoveries has always been a hallmark of science, yet the challenges of making significant contributions to entomology did not stop many deaf and hard of hearing people as the field grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Written by the Harry G. Lang (Professor Emeritus, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY), a deaf scholar, and by entomologist Jorge A. Santiago-Blay (National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC), this review paper reveals the fascinating stories of people who were deaf since birth or early childhood or became deaf or hard-of-hearing during their careers, and found ways to communicate science despite the isolation imposed upon them.
This paper is an interesting journey through time, with a different slant. Charles Bonnet (1720-1793), whose deafness began around the age of seven, became a renowned Swiss naturalist, investigating parthenogenesis in aphids, a discovery that laid the groundwork to examine development and the true nature of heredity. Aboard the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin hired a cabin boy, Syms Covington, whose deafness was likely increased through repeated shooting of rifles as he collected specimens. The evolutionary theorist and his faithful assistant became lifelong friends. From these deaf and hard-of-hearing pioneers to scientists in the late 19th and early 20th century, the accomplishments are remarkable in light of their struggles to communicate. Some of them lived largely solitary lives, entirely apart from other deaf people. Others were deeply involved in the Deaf community as well as the scientific community.
The authors also include cross-disciplinary contributions to entomology, ranging from the paleontological discoveries of insect fossils by Leo Lesquereux and Fielding Bradford Meek, observations of insects by botanical painter and naturalist Marianne North, and the further understanding of arthropods contributed by economic entomologists such as Simon Rathvon and botanists such as Henry William Ravenel.
Lang and Santiago-Blay examine the entomological contributions of many other deaf and deafened men and women as a group, revealing a fascinating legacy that has not been previously explored.
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