William Muriece Hoskins, ESA Fellow (1993)

Dr. William Muriece Hoskins (deceased 20 April 1993), a professor at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) was elected as Fellow in 1947. Hoskins was considered an international authority on the chemistry of insecticides and fungicides. He was a pioneer in insect toxicology and was the first person to teach a course with that name.

Hoskins was born to Florence and William Hoskins on 2 April 1896 in Adin, CA. He was the oldest of three sons. He graduated from high school in Woodland, CA. From 1915–1919 Hoskins attended UCB completing his undergraduate degree in mathematics. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received a Levi Strauss Scholarship in Letters and Science for the year 1917–1918. During his undergraduate studies, he served one year in the army during WWI in France. Hoskins completed a Ph.D. in chemistry at UCB in 1922 and became a member of the American Chemical Society and Phi Sigma Biological Society. That same year, Hoskins married Katherine Oman, also a graduate of UCB. They had four children. Hoskins was an avid reader and filled his house with books, especially on history and economics.

After receiving his Ph.D., Hoskins taught chemistry at the University of Nevada for five years where he became interested in bringing biology and chemistry together. In 1927, he returned to UCB as an assistant professor in biochemistry. He joined the Department of Entomology in 1929 and founded the field of insect toxicology. Arnold Mallis, a former student, characterized Hoskins’ teaching as “brilliant.” During his 34-year tenure, Hoskins mentored many graduate students in insect toxicology, served as a chemist and entomologist at the Experimental Station from 1929–1958, and as the acting chair of the Department of Entomology and Parasitology from 1956–1957. Hoskins also served as editor of the Journal of Economic Entomology and was elected as a fellow of the California Academy of Science. He retired in 1963 as a professor emeritus, but remained active as a consultant with the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Hoskins’ insightful integration of insect biochemistry with the development and understanding of insecticides helped to usher in the Golden Age of Pesticide Science in the 1930s, which focused on creating synthetic, organic pesticides. Hoskins was interested in the development of safe and effective ways to control insect pests and, by the 1950s, he was focusing on the problem of DDT with special interest in insect resistance and the potential for synergistic effects of other chemical agents with DDT to produce a more effective insecticide. He was a prolific researcher and wrote 128 articles and books.

UCB became a center for Insect Toxicology under Hoskins’ influence. In 1992, Edmond Hoskins, his youngest brother, established the William Muriece Hoskins Chair in Chemical and Molecular Entomology at UCB. In 2001, the journal Pest Management Science released an issue of papers from the 2000 International Conference on Insect Toxicology paying special tribute to the contributions of Dr. Hoskins.

(updated October, 2011)