Vincent Gaston Dethier (20 February 1915 - 8 September 1993) was an award-winning American physiologist and entomologist. Considered a leading expert in his field, he was a pioneer in the study of insect-plant interactions and wrote over 170 academic papers and 15 science books. He also wrote natural history books for non-specialists, as well as short stories, essays and children’s books.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the four children of Jean Vincent and Marguerite (Lally) Dethier, he received his undergraduate degree and PhD from Harvard University. His first post-doctoral position was as a biology instructor at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio where he taught from 1939-1941.
He joined the Army Air Corps during WWII, serving part of his time in Africa and Middle East. He wrote his first book, Chemical Insect Attractants and Repellents, in the bomb bay of a B-25. He worked in the Army Chemical Corps as a research physiologist until 1946, and at the Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland in a long series of experiments analyzing the effects of chemicals on the chemosensors of flies.
At war end, he taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1947-1958. He was a professor of zoology and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania from 1958-1967 and then held the Class of 1977 Chair as Professor of Biology at Princeton University.
From 1975 until his death in 1993, he was the Gilbert L. Woodside Professor of Zoology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he was the founding director of its Neuroscience and Behavior Program and chaired the Chancellor’s Commission on Civility.
He was a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and the recipient of the Entomological Society of America’s 1967 Founders’ Memorial Award, as well as the John Burroughs Medal in 1993 for distinguished nature writing.
This book is a celebration of the insect universe, exploring their amazing forms and functions, their fascinating behaviour and the enormous impact they have on our lives. With its lively and informative text, it looks at insects in all their extremes, from the biggest, fastest and fiercest to the best nest builder, most devious hunter and deadliest bride.
Insects are extreme in numbers – a single leaf-cutter ant nest, the size of a large camper van, may contain seven million individuals working together as a single giant super-organism. Insects are extreme in their bizarre forms – the stalk-eyed fly, as its name suggests, carries its eyes on the end of two ludicrously long stalks. And insects are invariably extreme in behaviour – take for instance the giraffe-necked weevil that holds head-bobbing contests to win a mate. Yet there is always method in their apparent madness, as each strange form and function is an adaptation designed to solve the extreme pressures that arise through the struggle to survive in a world that is always dangerous, competitive and unforgiving.
Modoc is a captivating true story of loyalty, friendship, and high adventure, to be treasured by animal lovers everywhere.