Friday Feature: new finding aid for John Lattin Papers

The Special Collections & Archives Research Center is pleased to announce that the Guide to the John D. Lattin Papers is now publicly available online.

The collection represents the work of entomologist John Lattin during his four-decade career at OSU and includes extensive professional correspondence, research projects, publications, Entomology Department materials, biographical and employment records, and more.

John Lattin joined the staff of the Oregon State University Entomology Department in 1955. During his time at OSU, Dr. Lattin specialized in Hemiptera or “true bugs” and conducted research on the reaction of insect populations to evolving environmental conditions such as climate change, the appearance of invasive species, logging, and the introduction of pesticides. Much of this research was focused on Pacific Northwest forests and conducted in the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest.

Lattin also served as the curator of the University’s entomology museum, a role that required him to manage and grow the university’s insect collections through cooperation with other universities, laboratories, and private collectors. In service of his students and colleagues, Lattin immersed himself in an international insect specimen trading network made up of museum curators, researchers, and hobbyists. His own field work gave him the opportunity to collect species of insects unique to the Pacific Northwest and trade them for exotic specimens from around the globe. Lattin’s correspondence is filled with records of his efforts in procuring samples for OSU and disseminating specimens from Oregon. Lattin’s research and collecting efforts took him all over the United States and abroad to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

In a survey conducted in the mid-1970s, the OSU entomological collection was ranked in the top 25 collections of its kind out of almost 600 collections across the United States and Canada.  It grew to more than 2.5 million specimens under his guidance and was both a source of professional pride for Lattin and a valuable teaching tool for entomology, zoology, and biology students.

Jack Lattin’s instincts as a collector were not confined to insect collecting. Lattin began cultivating a personal collection of rare books on the history of entomology in the early 1950s. Though his collection was originally intended for personal research use, it became a crucial teaching tool when he began teaching an Historical Entomology class in 1955. Over the next forty years, his collection would grow to encompass hundreds of books, all carefully chosen from his worldwide network of rare book dealers specializing in entomology.

When Jack Lattin donated his entire research library to the OSU Libraries in the 1990s, the rare books of his collection were absorbed by Special Collections, where they established a strong foundation in historical entomology. Today, the collection is valued not only for its entomological content, but also as a rich source of examples in the history of printing. From gorgeous hand-colored engravings in the 18th century to fine chromolithographs in the 19th and 20th centuries, the collection showcases the change in scientific illustration techniques over time.

Related materials include the Entomology Department Records (RG 027), and the papers of Norman Anderson, Ralph Berry, Ernst Dornfeld, Louis Gentner, Paul Oman, Paul Ritchter, and Herman Scullen.

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