Melville H. Hatch, ESA Fellow (1938)

Melville H. Hatch (deceased 19 January 1988), curator of the Burke Museum and Professor of Entomology at the University of Washington, Seattle (UW), was elected as Fellow in 1938.  His fifty-year academic career focused on Nearctic Coleoptera, including studies in ecology, morphology, taxonomy, and evolutionary history.

Melville Hatch was born in Detroit, Michigan, on 25 November 1898.  He was a biologist from a young age; at nine he “began to compile a catalogue of the animal kingdom,” and at fifteen he embarked on a lifelong journey of insect collecting. At Detroit Central High School, Melville was active in the biology club. He studied at the University of Michigan (U-M), earning his B.A. in 1919, his M.A. in 1921, and finally a Ph.D. in Zoology in 1925, with a dissertation on the morphology and taxonomy of Gyrinidae.

In 1924, Melville served as a biology professor at Millikan University in Decatur, IL. In 1925, he spent a year instructing at U-M, and in 1926, spent a year at the University of Minnesota, where he published his 22nd paper. In 1927, Melville moved to Seattle, WA, where he took over teaching entomology at UW from Trevor Kincaid, a young prodigy of the university and mentor who showed him the best local collecting spots and sparked his passion for the study of Northwest beetles. Later, Melville would serve as editor of a UW publication titled Studies Honoring Trevor Kincaid. He was promoted to full professor in 1941, and in 1947 spent a short time as “acting executive officer of the Department of Zoology at the university.”

While at U-M, in 1918 he joined Phi Sigma, the biological sciences honor society, and remained active in the society throughout his life.  Hatch later served as editor from 1959–1967 of Phi Sigma’s The Biologist, a magazine founded by one of his college roommates, Arthur Ortenburger. Another college roommate, T.H. Hubbell, went on to become a respected orthopterist, and, like Hatch, a museum curator and director at U-M.

In 1937, Melville formed “a social group where it would not be out of order to talk about beetles!” called the Scarabs, which continues to meet in Seattle. He is fondly remembered as “High Scarab.”  In 1943, Melville involved himself in teaching a series of courses called “The Modern Cultural Crisis” for which he produced several essays on topics such as evolution, religion, philosophy, and a better world order through knowledge. In 1949, he published the first volume of his magnum opus, Beetles of the Pacific Northwest. Volume 5 appeared in 1971.

Throughout his career, Hatch identified over 13 new species and published 183 scientific papers. Melville was continuously active in the ESA and the Entomological Society of Washington, and in 1975, he earned the ESA Pacific Branch’s C.W. Woodworth Award, the most prestigious achievement in entomology in the Pacific U.S.

(updated August, 2011)