Pierre F. M. A. Dejean 1780-1845

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Pierre F. M. A. Dejean


Dejean was THE great name in coleopterology in the early 19th century.   He was a general in the army who rose to the title of “pair de France,” and he served as Napoleon’s first aide-de-camp at the battle of Waterloo.  Beginning in 1802, he began a series of catalogs of the species in his collection; the final edition in 1837 contained more than 22,000 names!  These lists were used by other entomologists to arrange their collections, but it is important to note that Dejean’s names of new species in his catalogs are nomina nuda.  Dejean was consistently opposed to the principal of priority in nomenclature, instead preferring the name most generally used rather than the oldest one.  Although Dejean may be best known for his five volumes on Carabidae in the Spécies Général des Coléoptères (1825-1838), he described a number of Scarabaeoidea.

Dejean was an ardent collector and, combined with his purchases and exchanges, brought together the largest private insect collection of the time.  His collecting ardor is evident from an account by Boisduval (Dejean’s private curator) in the Annals of the Entomological Society of France (vol. 2, p. 502, 1845, translated):

Before the battle of Alcanizas, which Dejean won after a long-contested fight, taking a great number of prisoners, when the enemy had just appeared and he was prepared to give the signal of attack.  Dejean, at the border of a brook caught sight of a Cebrio ustulatus on a flower.  He immediately dismounted, pinned the insect, applied it to the inside of his helmet which, for this purpose, was always supplied with pieces of cork, and started the battle.  After this, Dejean’s helmet was terribly maltreated from cartouche fire; but, fortunately, he refound his precious Cebrio intact on its piece of cork.


Barber, H S and J. C. Bridwell. 1940. Dejean catalogue names (Coleoptera). Bulletin of the Brooklyn Entomological Society 35: 1-12.

Lindroth, C. H.  1973.  Systematics specializes between Fabricius and Darwin: 1800-1859, p. 119-154.  IN, Smith, R. F., T. E. Mittler, and C. N. Smith, History of Entomology.  Annual Reviews Inc., Palo Alto, CA.  517 pp.

Madge, R B. 1988.  The publication dates of Dejean's catalogues.  Archives of Natural History  15: 317-321.


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University of Nebraska-Lincoln State Museum - Division of Entomology