F. Tom Turpin, ESA Fellow (2010)

Dr. F. Tom Turpin, professor of entomology at Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, was elected as Fellow in 2010.  He is best known for his innovative teaching and popularizing of entomology courses and his dedication to entomological outreach as well as his research on insects associated with corn production.

Turpin was born on a farm in Troy, KS where he developed a keen interest in all living things including wildlife and farm animals.  He received a B.S. degree in biology in 1965 from Washburn University.  He obtained his Ph.D. in entomology from Iowa State University in 1971.  He subsequently taught high school science and math and coached during the school years of 1966–1968 at Brooklyn-Guernsey-Malcolm (BGM) High School in Brooklyn, Iowa.  He became an assistant professor of entomology at Iowa State for 9 months before moving to begin a career at Purdue University in August 1971.

Turpin taught a variety of courses at Purdue including insect pest management, introductory entomology, bee keeping, and insects in prose and poetry.  He taught two Honors College courses on “Insects in Literature and Art” and “Science Theatre for Youth.”  He has always been interested in promoting entomology to the general public.  For six years (1978–1983) he produced the popular “Bug Scout” cartoon (whose main character bore an uncanny resemblance to its author) and wrote "Pest Management Tip" for the Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine, which proved to be an excellent way of reaching growers. In 1988, he began a bi-weekly newspaper column entitled “On 6 Legs,” featuring insects and insect-related topics. He authored two popular books, Flies in the Face of Fashion, Mites Make Right, and other Bugdacious Tales and What’s Buggin’ You Now? Bee’s Knees, Bug Lites, and Beetles, and a textbook, Insect Appreciation. In 1990, he created the Purdue “Bug Bowl,” which is now part of and was the inspiration for Purdue’s annual “Spring Fest.” As ESA President in 1992, Turpin introduced the first Insect Expo at the ESA meeting in Baltimore, attracting area school children. Turpin originated the Linnaean Games, a college bowl-type competition testing the entomological knowledge of university student teams in an event now held annually at ESA meetings.

Turpin's numerous awards highlight recognition of his gifts for teaching and outreach. He was named CASE Indiana Professor of the Year in 1995 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He was recognized as a founding member of Purdue's Teaching Academy in 1997, listed in Purdue's Book of Great Teachers in 1998, and won the One Brick Higher Award for service to Purdue in 2005. He was awarded ESA's Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching in 1997, won two Educational Project Awards from the Board Certified Entomologists of Mid-America ( 1995; 2009), and the Entomological Foundation's Medal of Honor in 2009.

Turpin and his wife Christine (Lang) share their acreage with a few chickens, lots of flowerbeds and a vegetable garden.  They are parents of two children:  Suzanne and Stephen and grandparents to 3 boys and a girl. 

(updated August 2015)