Joseph Charles Corneille Bequaert
(1886 - 1982)

Joseph Charles Corneille Bequaert


Dr. Joseph Bequaert of the American Museum of Natural History

Born: Thourout, Belgium. Naturalized U.S. Citizen in 1921.

Died: Amherst, Massachusetts.

Occupation: Entomolgist, Malacologist, Botanist. Research Associate, American Museum of Natural History, 1917-22; instructor of Entomology, Harvard Medical School, 1923-25; Assist. Prof. 1925-45; Curator of Insects, Museum of Comparative Zoology - Harvard, 1929-56; Prof. of Biology, Dept. of Biology, University of Houston, 1956-60; Entomologist, Dept. of Zoology, University of Arizona, 1960-??; Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Museum of Comparative Zoology - Harvard, 1951-56; Entomologist, Belgian Sleeping Sickness Commission, 1910-12; Botanist, Belgian Congo, 1913-15; Member of Special Staff, Internal Health Division, Rockefeller Foundation, 1935.

Education: Ph.D., Ghent University, Belgium, 1908.

Remarks: President of AMU, 1954 and Honorary Life Member.

Research Interests: Medical Malacology. Freshwater Mollusca of the Belgian Congo.

Remarks: Spouse Frances A. Brown Bequaert.

Bequaert began his career as a botanist, but his several year experience in the Belgian Congo early in the century increasingly involved him with invertebrates, especially mollusks. After emigrating to the United States in 1916 he moved into a quiet academic life of teaching and research (primarily taxonomy and natural history), mostly at Harvard, but later in life in the Southwest. His final important work was published at the age of eighty-seven.

This issue of Psyche is dedicated to the memory of Joseph C. Bequaert, who died in his 96th year in Amherst, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1982.

Dr. Bequaert was born in Belgium in 1886 and was educated there, receiving his Dr. Phil. degree in botany in 1908 from the State University in Ghent. The next seven years he spent in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), at first as Entomologist on the Belgian Sleeping Sickness Commission and later as head of botanical explorations in the Congo for the Belgian Colonial Government. During those years his main interest shifted from botany to entomology, in which he subsequently did the greater part of his research and teaching. In 19 17 he was appointed Research Associate in Congo Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History. Six years later, after becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, he joined the faculties of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Medical School, as an assistant professor in medical entomology, and remained there until 1945. He then accepted the position of Curator of Recent Insects in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, succeed- ing Nathan Banks. In 1951 he was appointed Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, a chair that he held until his retirement in 1956. Most of the remaining 26 years of his life were spent in Tuc- son, Arizona, where he was associated with the departments of entomology and zoology at the University of Arizona. He was internationally known for his publications, totalling more than 250, on medical entomology, mollusks, botany, and systemat- ics of several families of insects.

Joe joined the Cambridge Entomological Club in 1923, as soon as he reached the Boston area, and he was very active in the society for the next 33 years. He was president in 1928, 1935-36, and 1942-43; vice-president in 1937, 1941, and 1946; secretary in 1925 and 1926; and treasurer in 1943. He also served on the editorial board of Psyche from 1947-1956. He gave many of the scheduled talks at our regular meetings and was chosen as the speaker for the 500th meet- ing of the Club on December 15, 193 1. In recognition of his services and contributions to the activities of the society, he was elected an Honorary Member in 1961.

I first met Joe at the September meeting of the Club in 1923, at which he was nominated for membership. His exuberance and his extraordinary enthusiasm for nearly every aspect of natural history were the most obvious traits of his personality. In 1956 he wrote the following statement of his scientific interests: ecology of flowers: taxonomy and ecology of Bryophyla; geography and ecology of African plants; relations of A rthropoda to disease; taxonomv and ethology of Diptera and Hymenoptera, particular(^ Vespidae; malo- cology: medical entomology. He was certainty one of the most distinguished and respected entomologists of his generation. Frank M. Carpenter, editor


Bequaert, J. 1926. The date of publication of the Hymenoptera and Diptera described by Guérin in Duperrey's "Voyage de La Coquille." Entomologische Mitteilungen 15: 186-195. [20.iii.1926.]

Wheeler, W. M.; Bequaert, J. C. 1929. Amazonian myrmecophytes and their ants. Zool. Anz. 82: 10-39


Abbott, R.T., and M.E. Young (eds.). 1973. American Malacologists: A national register of professional and amateur malacologists and private shell collectors and biographies of early American mollusk workers born between 1618 and 1900. American Malacologists, Falls Church, Virginia. Consolidated/Drake Press, Philadelphia. 494 pp.

Clench, W.J. 1982. Joseph Charles Bequaert 1886-1982. Nautilus 96(2):35.

Psyche 89:1-2 Frank Carpenter note.

Anon. 2001. Notes Faunistiques de Gembloux 44:60, portrait.

Bolton B, Alpert G, Ward PS, Naskrecki P. 2007. [CD-ROM] Bolton’s Catalogue of the Ants of the World. Harvard University Press.