Edward S. Thomas, ESA Fellow (1946)

Mr. Edward S. Thomas (deceased 16 February 1982), a curator of natural history at the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society in Columbus, was elected as Fellow in 1946. He was an acclaimed naturalist and author, writing scientific outreach articles and engaging with the public to educate Ohio citizens on the local flora, fauna, and geology throughout his career.

Edward S. Thomas was born in Woodsfield, OH on 22 April 1891. His family moved to Columbus when he was a child, and he lived there for the rest of his life. He developed a passion for nature early in life, thanks to his mother's interest in wildflowers and father's enthusiasm for birds. He kept a journal of his observations beginning in 1908. However, his career path veered from natural history, and he attended The Ohio State University with the intent of practicing law, earning a bachelor's degree in 1913 and a degree in law in 1916. After graduation, Thomas immediately began practicing with the firm Williams, Nash, Hays, and Thomas in Columbus. His love of nature was not to be denied, however, and in 1922, he began writing a weekly column for The Columbus Dispatch, which focused on educating laypeople on the biological and geological history of the area. Thomas left his law practice in 1931 to become the curator of natural history for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, a position he held until 1962. He was chairman of the Columbus Metropolitan Parks District from 1945–1967. Professor Nature Bug, a comic strip he began in 1958 with artist John Hazlett, brought scientific concepts to a younger audience. Thomas continued writing for The Columbus Dispatch until his death.

Thomas was author or co-author of approximately 50 research papers throughout his life on a variety of subjects: ornithology, entomology, herpetology, botany, ecology, geology, and conservation. His focus was on the description of local flora, fauna, and geology, leading some to dub him “Ohio’s leading naturalist.” His greatest impact was in his scientific outreach. His newspaper articles totaled over 3,000, and a selection of 100 columns were compiled into the 1981 book In Ohio Woods and Fields. Among his entomological publications were Insect Friends and Foes (1932) and Insect Life-Stories (1940). Through his writing and numerous public speaking engagements, Thomas influenced several generations of Ohio citizens by making scientific concepts easily understood by all. His papers and audiovisual materials are archived with the Ohio Historical Society's Archives and Library, and include an unpublished book on Ohio Orthoptera.

Thomas was a member of numerous biological organizations, and a founding member of the Columbus Audubon Society. He was an honorary member of the Ohio Academy of Science. He received an honorary Doctor of Science from Capital University in Columbus, in 1944. In 1975, 320 acres of oak-hickory woodlands in Franklin County, OH were named the Edward S. Thomas Nature Preserve in his honor.

Thomas was married in 1938 to Marian Washburn and they had one daughter, Elizabeth, and two grandchildren.

(updated April, 2015)