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Aldrich, John Merton, 1866-1934
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J. M. (John Merton) Aldrich was born on January 28, 1866, in Olmstead County, Minnesota, the son of Levi O. and Mary Moore Aldrich. He was educated in the county and high schools of Rochester, Minnesota. In 1885, he entered Dakota Agricultural College at Brookings, South Dakota. He received his B.S. degree in the first formal commencement exercises of Dakota Agricultural College in 1888 and was the first graduate who specialized in zoological sciences. He later received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Kansas and a Ph. D. from Stanford University.
Following graduation from Dakota Agricultural College in 1888, Aldrich was employed as an assistant in entomology at the college between 1889-1890 and an Assistant in Zoology from 1890-1892. During this time, he was also Assistant to the Agricultural Experiment Station Entomologist. From 1893 to 1913, he was Professor of Zoology at the University of Idaho. While at the University of Idaho, Aldrich began work on his Catalog of North American Diptera. In 1906, he took sabbatical leave to receive a Ph. D. from Stanford University, where his Catalog was accepted as his thesis.
In 1913, after his association with the University of Idaho was terminated, he was then appointed as Entomological Assistant in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bureau of Entomology at West Lafayette, Indiana. Five years later, he was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In 1919, he became Custodian of the Diptera (two-winged insects) and Associate Curator of the museum in its division of insects. Aldrich was the first Dipterist employed by the Smithsonian Institution who had been previously employed by the USDA.
Aldrich was known for his unusual success in obtaining rare specimens of insect life in various sections of the western hemisphere, including the western United States, Alaska, and Guatemala. Many of the insects he captured were previously unknown to science. Because of his extensive knowledge of North American Diptera fauna, his eminence made the National Museum the center for studies on New World Diptera. In 1923, Aldrich turned over his specimen collection of more than 45,000 insects, with more than 4,000 classifications.
In addition, he donated to the museum a card catalog file of North American literature on these specimens. This collection is among the most important general Diptera collection in the National Museum. In addition to his work at the National Museum, Aldrich wrote extensively on subjects of insect life. He was also President of the Entomological Society of America (1921) and received many honors and awards.
Aldrich died in 1934 but is still honored today by the existence of the Aldrich Entomology Club, which was formed in 1961 at the University of Idaho. This club provides a forum for student, faculty, and other interested persons to share their enthusiasm for insect biology.