Alexander B. Klots, ESA Fellow (1947)
Dr. Alexander B. Klots (deceased 18 April 1989), a professor of biology at City College of New York (CCNY), was elected as ESA Fellow in 1947. A leading authority on Lepidoptera, he was best known as the author of The World of Butterflies and Moths and of A Field Guide to the Butterflies. He also made major contributions to the study of lepidopteran genitalia, which appeared in Tuxen's Taxonomist's Glossary of Genitalia in Insects.
Klots, nicknamed "Bill" by his medical practitioner father, was born 12 December 1903 in New York City. His avid interest in the outdoors defied his mother's attempt to dress him in velvet suits with lace collars. His early visits to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) brought him in contact with lepidopterists such as Frank Watson, who subsequently encouraged him to work on the family Pieridae. Klots began studies at Dartmouth in medicine, but his interests in nature distracted him. He transferred to Yale and took three years of engineering courses. Only when he was finishing his Master's degree focusing on the pierid genus Eurema at Cornell under William T. Forbes, was it discovered that he had never finished his Bachelor's. Once remedied, he continued with Forbes for his Ph.D., revising the genera of the Pieridae, and receiving his degree in 1931. He worked for Wards Natural Science Establishment and taught part-time at the University of Rochester. Wards sent him out West to collect specimens, and he was encouraged to continue his entomological interests, including writing a manual on making an insect collection. In 1934, he accepted a faculty position in the Biology Department at CCNY, and was one of the first to offer a course in ecology, making the effort to get students out into the field. Klots was named emeritus in 1965. During WWII, Klots enlisted in the Army Air Force, where he worked on efficacy studies of DDT against mosquitoes and would meet Roger Tory Peterson. His wartime letters to his wife were censored, but they devised a code where he mentioned a number of butterfly species, and she went to AMNH to divine his location.
Klots published extensively in books, scientific articles, encyclopedias, book reviews, and popular literature. He was also well known for his photography, experimenting with color and flash macrophotography.
Associated with the AMNH for over 70 years, Klots was named Honorary Life Member and Research Associate. He was a charter and honorary life member of the Lepidopterists' Society and elected president in 1957 and vice president in 1974. In 1940, he was president of the New York Entomological Society. He was a fellow in the Royal Entomological Society and Linnean Society of London and a member of another seven scientific societies.
Klots was married for 61 years to Elsie Broughton, whom he met at Cornell, and with whom he had two children, Cornelius and Louise. Elsie was one of the first women to graduate with a Ph.D. in entomology, and she co-authored seven books with him.
(updated February, 2015)