Nellie M. Payne, ESA Fellow (1940)

Dr. Nellie (Emily) Maria de Cottrell Payne (deceased 19 July 1990), a research entomologist with American Cyanamid, was elected as ESA Fellow in 1940. Serving the scientific community as both an entomologist and agricultural chemist, Payne’s body of research most notably included insect and invertebrate cold hardiness, pigments of hydroids, and the physiology and mathematics of population growth.

Payne was born in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado on 11 December 1900.  She attended Kansas State Agricultural College, graduating with a B.S. in 1920 and a M.Sc. in 1921 in agricultural chemistry and entomology. She then moved north to Minnesota where she earned her Ph.D. in 1925 in the then Division of Entomology and Economic Zoology. Under the direction of Royal N. Chapman, her dissertation focused on the survival of insects at low temperatures. Studies on the effects of low temperatures in insects, and the methodology used for such assessments, remained a prominent part of her subsequent research career.

Payne had a diverse career both in academia and in industry.  In between her graduate degrees, she taught chemistry and mathematics for a year at Lindenwood College in Missouri. Following the completion of her doctorate, she was appointed as a National Research Foundation Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania until 1927, spending a brief time afterwards at the University of Vienna and University Berlin as a research investigator. She then returned to the University of Minnesota as a lecturer in entomology from 1933 to 1937.  Payne also spent numerous summers in the late 1920s and early 1930s at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, publishing primarily on the hibernation and low temperature effects of insects and the physiological effects of parasitoids on their hosts. Of her 36 publications, all as sole author, 33 were a result of her research prior to entering industry.  In 1937, she began her career in industry as a research entomologist and zoologist with American Cyanamid. In 1957, she accepted a position as a literature chemist for Velsicol Chemical in Chicago, with whom she remained until 1971. Later in her career, she would speak out about the importance of learning languages in the study of science, not only to be able to read papers in their original language, but also to know about cultural differences when talking about pests, pesticides, and dosages when working internationally.

In addition to her active membership in ESA, Payne was also a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Zoologists, and the New York Academy of Science.  She served as editor and member staff of Biological Abstracts from 1927–1933, and was elected as member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1921.

(updated April, 2015)