S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Ormerod, Miss Eleanor Anne (entomology)

Born: 11 May 1828, Sedbury Park, West Gloucestershire, United Kingdom.
Died: 19 July 1901, St Albans, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

Eleanor Anne Ormerod, British pioneer in economic entomology, was educated at home by her mother and thereafter self-educated. She received training in painting and with her unusual powers of observation and love of flowers became a competent artist. From about 1852 she started studying insects and in the late eighteen-sixties assisted the Royal Horticultural Society in forming an insect collection illustrative of economic entomology. The society awarded her their silver medal in 1870. Two years later she exhibited a collection, including plaster casts and other aids, at the International Polytechnic Exhibition in Moscow. Her entomological work began in earnest after the death of her father, George Ormerod, in 1873, as he had not taken her work seriously. She published her first paper, on the great water-newt, in the Journal of the Linnean Society (Zoology) that same year. In 1878 she became a member of the Entomological Society of London. Among her friends she counted the botanist Sir Joseph Hooker* and his family.

In 1877 Ormerod published a pamphlet entitled Notes for observations of injurious insects. It became the first of a series of 24 Annual reports of observations of injurious insects (1877-1900), compiled with the collaboration of T.A. Preston and E.A. Fitch, based on her correspondence with observers all over Britain and abroad. During 1881-1884 she delivered six lectures on economic entomology at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. Further lectures delivered at the South Kensington Institute of Agriculture were published as Guide to the methods of insect life (1884). Her other publications included A manual of injurious insects... (1881), A textbook of agricultural entomology (2nd ed., 1892), Handbook of insects injurious to orchard and bush fruits, with means of prevention and remedy (1898), and Flies injurious to stock... (1900). She also published more than 40 papers, mainly on insect development, galls (growths produced by insects) on oak trees, various insect pests, and related topics. From 1882 to 1892 she was honorary consulting entomologist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England, and was largely responsible for the promulgation of economic entomology in Britain.

One of Miss Ormerod's correspondents in Britain, and later in the Cape Colony, was Samuel D. Bairstow*, secretary of the Port Elizabeth Naturalists' Society (1882-1884) and its successor, the Eastern Province Naturalists' Society (from 1884). At the society's first annual meeting in January 1883 he acknowledged valuable communications on insect pests received from Miss Ormerod, and she subsequently became both a life member and one of the patrons of the society. Her co-operation with the society continued for a number of years and she was again thanked for providing information on insect pests at meetings in January and December 1887. Around 1885 Bairstow asked her if she would compile a book on the insect pests of the Cape Colony, based partly on notes and specimens that he would send her. Ormerod agreed and produced Notes and descriptions of a few injurious farm and fruit insects of South Africa (London, 1889, 116p), the first of its kind on this topic. Extracts from the book describing the Australian bug and Ostrich fly were published in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape Colony (1889-1890, Vol. 2). Meanwhile she had also published a pamphlet entitled Notes on the Australian bug (Icerya purchasi) in South Africa... (London, 1887, 36 pp).

Another of Ormerod's local correspondents was the curator of the Albany Museum, Miss Mary Glanville*, who lent her specimens from the museum's insect collection. In 1888 Ormerod wrote a brief obituary of Mary Glanville for The Entomologist, which was reprinted in the Grahamstown Journal. Her other South African correspondents included the entomologists C.P. Lounsbury* and C. Fuller*. In 1888 she donated a small collection of insects injurious to fruit and garden crops to the Port Elizabeth Museum.

In addition to entomology Ormerod was interested in atmospheric phenomena. Her observations of the trails of meteors led to her election as the first female Fellow of the Meteorological Society in 1878. The honorary degree Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) was conferred upon her by the University of Edinburgh in 1900. That same year the Royal Horticultural Society awarded her its gold medal. She died the next year of cancer of the liver. Her autobiography, edited by R. Wallace, was published in 1904.

List of sources:
Agricultural Journal of the Cape Colony, 1889-1890, Vol. 2.

Cape of Good Hope. Report on the Port Elizabeth Museum, 1888.

Eastern Province Naturalists' Society. Minute Book [No. 1], 1882-1885; Minute Book [No. 2], 1885-1892; Annual Report, 1890, list of members.

Grahamstown Journal, 12 June 1888, p. 3: The late Miss Glanville (by E.A. Ormerod).

Hewitt, J. The Albany Museum, Grahamstown. Southern African Museums Association Bulletin (SAMAB), 1947, Vol. 4(4), pp. 81-91.

Lounsbury, C.P. The pioneer period of economic entomology in South Africa. Journal of the Entomological Society of South Africa, 1940, Vol. 3, pp. 9-29.

Miss Eleanor A. Ormerod [obituary]. Agricultural Journal of the Cape Colony, 1901, Vol. 19, pp. 315-316.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug