Henry C. Fall 1862-1939

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Henry Fall


Fall was California’s first resident to make significant contributions to the study of the state’s beetles, inspiring future generations of coleopterists, including E. C. Van Dyke and F. E. Blaisdell. Born in Farmington, New Hampshire on Christmas Day, Fall received his Bachelor of Science (1884) and honorary Doctor of Science (1929) from Dartmouth. Prompted by ill health, Fall moved to southern California in 1889 after a brief stint teaching high school mathematics in Chicago. He taught at Pomona High School (1892-1896) and later at Pasadena High School 1896-1917, where he served as the head of the science department.

Inspired by a visit from G. H. Horn in 1893, Fall soon began publishing scientific article on beetles. His papers included revisions of various beetle families and lists of species known from the California Channel Islands, southern California, New Mexico, and Alaska. He described nearly 1,500 new species of North American beetles, including 37 new genera. His meticulous study of the literature, the LeConte and Horn types, and all available material resulted in the description of very few synonyms. His 144th, and last publication, appeared in 1937.

After retiring from teaching in 1917, Fall moved to Tyngsboro, Massachusetts to live with his sister and her husband in the former home of Frederick Blanchard. He continued to publish, curate, and identify specimens sent to him for determination almost until his death on November 17, 1939. He was buried in Farmington.

At the time of his death, Fall had assembled what was up to that time the finest private beetle collection in North America. Reported to contain 200,000 specimens representing 20,000 species, his collection now resides appropriately next to those of LeConte and Horn in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

Information courtesy of Art Evans.


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University of Nebraska-Lincoln State Museum - Division of Entomology