Gordon Floyd Ferris (1893-1958) gave much to the entomological community in the field of “small insect” systematics. He suffered a lifelong compulsion he described thus: “..if an insect is too large to go on a slide I leave it for someone else, and if it is small enough to go on a slide I have an impulse to put it there.” Thanks to this motivation, we now enjoy a much greater knowledge and appreciation for a wide variety of insects including scales, lice, parasitic flies and small blood-sucking Hemiptera.
Ferris grew up in the Midwest, eventually being offered an opportunity to attend college by the power company for which he worked. Having been impressed by a copy of Vernon Kellogg’s American Insects during previous schooling, he asked to be sent to Stanford University, enrolling in the fall of 1912. Upon earning his M.A. in 1917, Ferris was appointed a teaching assistant in entomology at Stanford, thus beginning his long-time professional association with the Bay Area entomological community.
Ferris contributed not only a great deal to our systematic knowledge of the insects he studied, but also to the practice of biological research itself. Among these contributions include a dedication to and promotion of high quality illustration. This skill is preserved in his journal Microentomology, which was founded in part due to the costs associated with reproducing illustrations by standard printing methods. He viewed illustration as of such importance that it often tended to displace text in his works. His approach to comparative morphology was also simple, though rigorous. He was a strong believer in the graduality and incremental nature of evolutionary change, and as such strove to identify homology of structure and to seek the interconnections among biological forms. He influenced many students at Stanford, as well as at Berkeley and other institutions. He was a dedicated member of the Pacific Coast Entomological Society and Bay Area Biosystematists. Above all, Gordon Ferris always possessed of a strong sense of social responsibility in his work. Combined with his technical competence and a desire to find truth, this produced a large volume of quality work that continues to produce inspiration.
The Essig Museum is privileged to have inherited significant portions of the following collections from Stanford University in the early 1960s. Ferris’ important collection of scale insects is housed and maintained in the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California at Davis.
Anoplura (sucking lice)
This is by far the most significant of Ferris’ collections housed in the Essig Museum. It contains over 2000 slide-mounted specimens with worldwide representation. These are fully identified and inventoried. Among the specimens are primary types of about 75 species and allotypes and paratypes of many more.
Mallophaga (chewing lice)
This collection is an amalgamation of Ferris’ contributions and the collection of Vernon L. Kellogg. As the latter makes up the vast majority of the material it will be described under his name.
Streblidae and Nycteribiidae (bat flies)
This collection includes approximately 400 Nycteribiidae and 150 Streblidae from the New World, primarily North America. The collection includes some paratypes.
Hippoboscidae (louse flies)
The Ferris hippoboscid collection contains nearly 500 slides representing the family on a worldwide basis. Two holotypes and many paratypes are included.
Ferris, G.F., 1916. A Catalogue and Host-list of the Anoplura. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 4(6): 129-213.
Ferris, G.F., 1951. The Sucking Lice. Memoirs of the Pacific Coast Entomological Society 1: 1-320.
Ferris, G.F., 1937-1955. Atlas of the Scale Insects of North America. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA. 7 vols.