Eleanor A. (Eleanor Anne) Ormerod.

Eleanor Ormerod, Ll. D., economic entomologist : autobiography and correspondence online

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organised corresponding staff."

" As a meteorological observer, while living at Isleworth
my work consisted in taking notes on about eighteen
different subjects once a day, beginning at 9 a.m., Green-
wich time precisely. These included taking the readings
of the maximum and minimum temperatures, and also
those other thermometrical conditions, as of dry and wet
bulb, solar, earth, and ground thermometers, &c. ; likewise
of rainfall in the past four-and-twenty hours, of the state
of weather at the time ; the nature of the clouds, with the
amount and direction of them, and likewise the direction
and estimated speed of wind. The time occupied out-of-
doors in the observations was about twenty minutes, to
which had to be added the barometrical reading with that
of the attached thermometers, with corrections according
to tables furnished for altitude of the barometer, and such
minute errors in record of the thermometers as were shown
by tables of error furnished by comparison with the in-
struments at the Royal Observatory, Kew. Altogether the
work required some considerable amount of time, and also
most scrupulous attention to accuracy, not to say some
amount of personal self-denial, as whatever the weather
might be at 9 a.m. the work had to be done. Perhaps
there would be a thunderstorm, or at other times cold so
great that my fingers almost froze to the instruments, as
on one occasion, when the thermometer registered nearly
down to zero."

Professor Westwood belonged to the good old academic
type of scholar who made the responses in church in Latin.
He was, till his death, Miss Ormerod's mentor from her



To face p. 80,


initiation into Entomology, and she regarded him as the
greatest living scientific authority in the broad lines of their
common subject during the whole period of her advisory
work. They " got on famously," and as she said, he " took
the privilege," which she highly appreciated, " of knocking
her work about," as the subjoined letter, written at an early
stage of her career as an authoress, charmingly shows.


January 10, 1884.

MY DEAR Miss ORMEROD, I congratulate you on the
publication of your " Guide to Methods of Insect Life"
the nicest little Introduction to Entomology with which I
am acquainted. You have been very fortunate in obtaining
such a good series of woodcuts, many of which were new
to me. Allow me to suggest one or two improvements
after a hurried glance over the contents. It would have
been well to have indicated more precisely the size of some
of the objects figured ; for instance, the locust, p. 28, is
twice the size of the figure whilst the earwig, on the same
page, is about one-half the length of the figure. In p. 98,
the Death's-head moth, which is twice the size of the Eyed-
hawk moth, is represented smaller than it is in next page.
In p. 118 the fly is the Sirex juvencus, not the commoner
one S. gigas. In p. 125 the Bee parasite has not the front
portion of the wings black, but as milky as the other part.
In p. 73, line 8, for "glassy" read "glossy." I know you
will thank me for these hurried suggestions, or I would not
have troubled you with them.

Thanks for your kind enquiries. I am thankful to say
that after two months' attack of bronchitis I am nearly all
right again, but have been much confined to the house,
although I have been wanting to go to London. My kind
remembrance to your sister. We should be very glad if you
could come and give us a visit for a short time. Yours very
truly, J. O. WESTWOOD.

The high terms of approval and appreciation of her work
by Miss Ormerod's numerous foreign correspondents are
shown in no halting manner in the subjoined letter :

From Dr. J. A. Lintner, New York State Entomologist. 1


May 29, 1889.

MY DEAR Miss ORMEROD, I must congratulate you
upon your last Report. It is excellent, and reflects
1 Who died in Rome while on a visit to Europe.



great credit upon you. I am very glad that your letters
have been so appreciated that it has been necessary to
summon a lady private secretary to your aid. It will be
a satisfaction to you that you will now be able to accom-
plish much more than before. I am led to think whether
I should not ask our next Legislature to provide for an
assistant for me.

Your kind letter of the loth inst. was also duly received.
How strange, and how very interesting to me, that you
should discover Cecidomyia leguminicola (Gnat midge),
red maggot, with you, as you have done, working at
the root only " infesting the root," and not, so far as
known, attacking the head. If it occurs on the blossoms,
you should have been able to find it there by the time that
this reaches you, for, as I have somewhere mentioned, the
nearly-mature larva shows a disposition to leave the clover
heads very soon after they are picked. You ask if I have
observed this form in other cecids of the clover. We have,
so far as known, but one other clover cecid, and that is
your introduced C. trifolii (Clover leaf midge). The thought
suggests itself to examine some of my dried leguminicola
larvae. I am glad to have found in my collection examples
preserved in alcohol of the larvae which I had forgotten.
As I put up quite a little quantity of them, I can spare you
these, which I am sure will be acceptable to you.

Your investigation of the "warble" presence (p. no) effect
upon the beef-eater will, I am sure, be of much importance.
One of our Western agricultural papers has commenced an
investigation. Probably your studies and publications have
incited them to it.

March 12, 1894.

In going carefully over several pages of your seventeenth
report, which came to me last week, I asked myself, " Is not
this the best report that Miss Ormerod has written ? " You
are pleased to bestow praise on my reports, which from you
is agreeable to receive, but I think that I can judge of their
true value, and very glad indeed would I be if I could feel
that they were up to the standard of yours. These are far
from words of flattery, but are said because I believe that
you need encouragement. Your reports have high merit
and value, beyond similar writings of any of your English
contemporaries yes, far beyond. As ever, sincerely yours,




As a public lecturer Miss Ormerod achieved a high measure
of success. The first effort in this capacity was made at the
Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, where as " Special
Lecturer on Economic Entomology," she delivered six
interesting and valuable addresses to audiences of about
1 20 students and professors on : (i) Injurious Insects ;
(2) Turnip Fly ; (3) Effects of Weather on Insects ; (4) Wire-
worm ; (5) Insect Prevention ; (6)GEstridae Warble or Bot
Flies. The first was given in October, 1881, and the last in
June, 1884. On the first occasion Lord Bathurst, one of
the Governors of the College, was present, and Miss
Ormerod was placed between Principal McClellan on the
one hand and Professor Barker (biology) on the other, as
her sister Georgiana humorously remarked afterwards,
" for fear her courage should fail and she run away."
Her anxieties in the new capacity knew no bounds.

Although extremely nervous and anxious she succeeded in
concealing this from an attentive and appreciative audience,
and made an excellent appearance. 1 She declared that
while walking from the drawing-room to the large lecture
theatre at the opposite corner of the college quadrangle she
could not utter a word, and on this, as on other somewhat
similar exciting occasions, she experienced a drumming in
her head which she failed to moderate by any attempted
remedial measures. After about three years' experience as a
supernumerary member of the college staff, it was found
that the preliminary preparation of the lectures was robbing
her steadily increasing general work of time which was
inconveniently spared, and, although it was considered an
honour to be invited to give special lectures, she felt it to be
a duty to her main work to retire.

1 The Editor, having been present, is able to give this statement on
his own authority.



During this period one lecture was delivered before the
" Institute of Agriculture/' at South Kensington, in April,
1883, in the Lords of Council lecture hall, where as usual
she was in a state of trepidation as to what might happen.
The audience numbered about five hundred two hundred
and fifty of whom were Government students. The subject
was " Insect Injuries to Farm Crops, and their Prevention."
A number of minor incidents were nevertheless disturbing.
To begin with, the driver who had been engaged to take the
lecturer first to South Kensington and again in the evening to
Isleworth, started on the wrong journey first, but the mistake
was discovered before he had gone very far astray. Then a
chairman had failed to appear and another had to be
anxiously watched for at the door. A most suitable person
was at last found in the President of the Entomological
Society. All went well for a time until Miss Ormerod's sight
on the left side wholly failed. Being subject to attacks of
migraine from overwork, she thought one of these had come
on, but on moving a little to the right she discovered that a
brilliant light had been arranged to fall on the diagrams, and
that to her great discomfort she had got into the line of it.

A rather amusing incident occurred as the last dis-
traction. The object was to place the elements of Ento-
mology before the students in the simplest form possible,
but a few definitions were first necessary. They were told
to realise in the words of Professor Westwood that insects
were " Annulose animals, breathing by tracheae, having the
head distinct and provided in the adult stage with six
articulated legs, and antennae, subject also to a series of
moultings previously to attaining perfection, whereby wings
are ordinarily developed ! "

The audience burst out cheering, thinking, as Professor
Tanner I explained afterwards, that the scientific terms were
being used as a joke.

Apropos of this experience she wrote on October 14,
1890, to Mr. Robert Newstead, " If I could find time I
would like to form an instructive book, on the plan of
which I enclose a few lines so as to proceed gradually
from a foundation well known to the pupils thus :

"? What is an insect ? A. A fly is an insect, so is a
moth or a butterfly, or a wasp, or a grasshopper, or a

"Q. Is a spider an insect ? A. No.

1 The organiser of and first Senior Examiner in the Agriculture
Department, South Kensington.


" Q. Why not ? A. Because it has eight legs, and never
has any wings. Insects in their perfect state have six legs,
and usually either one or two pairs of wings.

" Q. Why do you say in their perfect state ? And so on.

" I believe that it is an absolute mistake to begin with a
definition of an insect such as is usually given half the
words of which are utterly without meaning to the student."

Under strong pressure at a later date, Miss Ormerod
delivered in the same hall a course of ten lectures in five
consecutive days, on the " Orders of Insects," and these
were reproduced in full in her "Guide to the Methods of
Insect Life."

The organisation was defective, and very small audiences
assembled. Professor Axe and others who gave special
lectures in the same course had the same experience. Only
^10 was paid to Miss Ormerod for her share of the
work, a sum which did not cover outlays, and apart from
the annoyance of the bungling the fatigue was great.

About this course. Professor Huxley wrote on November
n, 1883 : "Dear Miss Ormerod, I am very glad to welcome
you as a colleague and I wish I could come and hear your
lectures, being particularly ignorant of the branch of
Entomology you have made your own. I shall be very
glad if any of my students can find time to profit by your
teaching but I suspect that their hands are pretty full. We
shall be very glad to have your sister's work and thank her
for the trouble she has taken. Ever yours very truly," &c.

When a copy of the book reached him in the following
January he again wrote: " Many thanks for your ' Guide
to Insect Life.' I know enough of your portion of work to
be sure that it will be clear, accurate, and useful, and I hope
that the public will show a due appreciation of it. With
best wishes, &c.


Sir Joseph Hooker also wrote as follows :


January n, 1884.

DEAR Miss ORMEROD, Pray accept my best thanks for
the copy of your " Guide to Methods of Insect Life." I
have read the first 50 pages at intervals of my work with
great pleasure and interest. I was an Entomologist before
I took to Botany, as was my father before me, and I do
enjoy in my old age the account you give of the forgotten


habits of the friends of my early youth. I think it is
capitally well done and suited to its purpose, and I shall
hope to interest my children with it in the holidays. With
united sincere regards to you both, most truly yours,


In March, 1882, a paper on " Injurious Insects" was read
at a meeting of the Richmond Athenaeum. The hall was so
crammed that the Council were crushed up on the platform.
11 At the close of the lecture " (Lady Hooker writes) " Miss
Lydia Becker, at that time a vigorous upholder of ' Woman's
Rights/ rose to speak, and while praising Miss Ormerod's
able lecture, instanced her work as ' being a proof of how
much a woman could do without the help of man.' Miss
Ormerod, in her reply, thanked Miss Becker, but begged to
say that she had no right to the praise accorded to her on
the ground of her work being so entirely that of a lone
woman, for, she said, l No one owes more to the help of man
than myself. I have always met with the greatest kindness
and most generous aid from my friends of the other sex,
and without their constant encouragement my poor efforts
would have had no practical result in being of benefit to
my fellow men.' "

In the discussion which followed the lecture Sir Joseph
Hooker " referred to the great benefit they had derived
at Kew Gardens from Miss Ormerod's researches, remarking
that to her and her sister (Georgiana) they owed some
of the best illustrations they had of insect ravages upon
plants. He could not but allude also to the elegance
and clearness of the language employed by Miss Ormerod in
her paper as an illustration that scientific matters might be
put in a clear and simple form, so that all might understand
them. ... In conclusion he thanked Miss Ormerod and her
sister for their services to science."

About 1888 an entomological "At Home" was given at
Torrington House, St. Albans, when some sixty people
assembled in the drawing-room and listened to a most
interesting dissertation on the " Hessian Fly," given by the
hostess in a friendly and informal conversational manner.

The Farmers' Club lecture in 1889 was felt by Miss
Ormerod to be the most important and most gratifying of all
similar public appearances. She prepared it with infinite
care and, as the time fixed for its delivery approached, the
state of nervous tension was great. Leading agriculturists
were present, and a number of ladies came to make inquiries


about all sorts of things, but probably the lecturer would
have been equally well pleased had none of her own sex
put in an appearance.

In 1882 Miss Ormerod was invited by the Lords of the
Committee of Council on Education to become a member
of a committee to advise in the improvement of the collec-
tions relating to Economic Entomology in the South
Kensington and Bethnal Green Museums. The other
members of committee were Professor Huxley, Mr. W.
Thisleton Dyer, Professor J. O. Westwood, Mr. F. Orpen
Bower, Professor Wrightson, and Mr. Moore Colonel
Donnelly and Sir Philip Cunliffe Owen being present
officially. After serious consideration and a good deal of
pressure from influential quarters, Miss Ormerod accepted
the invitation and was a most useful member of committee
till her withdrawal from it in April, 1886. She continued,
however, to assist the supervision of the work, which
went on for some time after. At the first meeting she was
asked to prepare a scheme for a series of illustrations of
Economic Entomology, and her suggestion of classifying
injurious insects by the name of leading plant affected, and
not by the Natural Orders of the creatures, was accepted.
A collection of cases containing natural specimens in all
stages of development, as well as accurate drawings of them,
though never completed, was made, at first mainly under
Professor Westwood's direction, but later on, under Miss
Ormerod's supervision. Many of the specimens were taken
from Mr. Andrew Murray's earlier contributions.

The collection was in 1885 removed from Bethnal Green
to the Western Exhibition Galleries, South Kensington
Museum. The value of Miss Ormerod's services and the
esteem in which she was personally held by her associates
in connection with the work of the committee, may be
gathered from the subjoined letter sent to her by Professor

March 12, 1883.

DEAR Miss ORMEROD, Many thanks for the trouble you
have taken. Your suggestion about utilising the figures
which are not specially wanted for our purpose, for schools,
seems to me excellent, and I hope you will bring it forward
at our next meeting.

I hope our first discussion has convinced you that we
want nothing but to achieve something useful. And as I
have at any rate learned how to recognise practical know-


ledge and common sense, when I meet with them (they are
not so common as people imagine) you will find me always
ready to do my best to aid in carrying out your views.
You really know more about the business than all the rest
of us put together. Yours very truly,


While Miss Ormerod was associated with the Bethnal
Green Museum she was asked to look at the proofs of a
series of insect diagrams illustrating " Gardeners' Friends
and Foes " being prepared for publication by the Science
and Art Department. She found that an official of the
Museum had been guilty of wholesale plagiarism, both
in the coloured figures and the descriptive letterpress, and
moreover that a number of figures of a popular kind had
been introduced which were not drawn with scientific ac-
curacy, that she felt conscientiously impelled to report the
irregularities and deficiencies to the authorities. The
results were that the diagrams were withdrawn (only a few
sets having been presented for private use to certain
fortunate individuals) ; and the removal of the official from
the position of trust became a wholesome lesson to those
who lightly make use without acknowledgment of the
work of others.

At a later date she arranged the descriptive matter of a
series of beautiful insect diagrams, the originals of which
were drawn and coloured by her sister, Georgiana, for the
Royal Agricultural Society, and referred to in the appended
facsimile page of a letter addressed to the present writer,
and again at p. 210 of her correspondence.

To Miss Anne Hartwell, Miss Ormerod's private secre-
tary and confidential companion, I am indebted for many
of the following incidents in the home life. The two sisters,
though they were never robust, enjoyed comparatively good
health, when Miss Hartwell, in May, 1888, went to reside
with them, and were at all times very busy. Miss Ormerod
(Georgiana) usually sat in the dining-room working at her
diagrams and Miss Eleanor in the study. They generally
worked all the morning, and in the afternoon they would



walk out together, take a drive, or pay calls. They fre-
quently had visitors for a few days, and nephews and nieces
would come and go which was always a pleasure to them.
They were devoted to each other and spent much time
together, Miss Georgiana's death, on August 19, 1896, was
a sad blow to Miss Eleanor, who missed her sister's com-
panionship and sympathy dreadfully. To a casual observer
time seemed to heal her wounded feelings and she appeared
cheerful and bright, but in reality she was never again quite
the same person they had been such lifelong friends and

In a letter to the Rev. C. J. Bethune she wrote on
October 12, 1896 :

" I thank you gratefully for your kind comforting letter ;
believe me such words as yours are a great consolation
and support to me, for I do miss my dear sister exceed-

" For her I fully hope that she is safe, and happy, and I
love to think of her as without fears or doubts serving the
Lord she so humbly trusted but we were so completely
one that I scarcely feel the same person without her. It was
not only our sisterly affection and colleagueship, but she
had such a good judgment that I am constantly longing for
her sound sense to help me. There is no use in idle grief,
and I am fairly well again. I have not at all put aside
work through all my sorrow, for I felt this would answer no
good purpose, and now I am working on my next Annual
Report and am arranging to have a good portrait of her as
a frontispiece (plate xxvu.). I think she would like it, and
I am sure she would have been deeply grateful for the kind
respect paid by the good friends whose friendship she so
exceedingly valued. I scarcely know how to write about
it there is so much I should like to say. Perhaps I had
better not write more, but indeed I value your beautiful
words of comfort which I have repeatedly read."

A touchingly sympathetic notice of the death appeared
in Miss Ormerod's Annual Report for 1896.

Miss Ormerod rose early, breakfasted at eight o'clock,
and then read the " Times." On getting to work she made
a special point of replying to inquiries first, saying it served
no good purpose to keep people waiting for an answer ; and,
as a matter of fact, delay or hesitation found no place in
any of her actions. Frequently there were specimens to
examine and report upon, and probably to put aside in a


place of safety to permit of maturation or further develop-
ment and to undergo subsequent examination.

After the entomological work was finished work which
was a real pleasure, but proved a severe strain as the Annual
Report was taking form her personal correspondence was
attended to. She wrote with great facility and with extra-
ordinary rapidity and accuracy. She had many colonial
and continental correspondents who held standing invita-
tions to pay her visits, when in this country. Many came,
and graciously she received them, and courteously and
royally she entertained them with much pleasure to herself.
None so honoured can ever forget the cordiality of the
breezy welcome which, accompanied by her hearty and
genuinely natural and friendly laugh, were merely har-
bingers of the intellectual treat and the other good things
that were in store for them.

Among her most intimate immediate friends were Lord 1
and Lady Grimthorpe, the Bishop of St. Albans (Dr.
Festing) and his sister, the Dean (Walter John Lawrence,
M.A.), General and Mrs. Bigge, Colonel and Miss Cartwright,
Dr. and Mrs. Norman, and Dr. Lipscomb and Miss Lips-
comb. She was always pleased to see friends who called,
and she was very witty and cheerful with them. It was not
at all necessary that they should be scientific. One of the
little group mentioned, simply and perhaps too modestly
explains, " I always think that when Miss Ormerod sent for
me, she descended to my level, and our conversation was
generally on the most homely subjects. She would be
most interested in the little events of our everyday life and
thoroughly enter into our pleasures and enjoyments."

The lively sense of humour which has already been men-
tioned as a family characteristic remained with her through-
out life. The following little anecdote told by Mrs. Evans
of Rowancroft, Dorking, is also illustrative of the personal
coolness and power of action in times of difficulty which
were conspicuous among Miss Ormerod's attributes, and it
shows also " the quietly determined manner in which she

Online LibraryEleanor A. (Eleanor Anne) OrmerodEleanor Ormerod, Ll. D., economic entomologist : autobiography and correspondence → online text (page 10 of 32)