Purdue University’s entomology department has been working to preserve its legacy as one of the oldest entomology programs in the nation. As part of that effort, a statue called “The Entomologist” is on track to be unveiled in March 2017. Purdue will highlight the statue at a ceremony in April 2017 during the Bug Bowl, a two-day festival that attracts up to 30,000 visitors.
The statue is a design of three figures: J.J. Davis, former head of Purdue’s entomology department, stands in the center. Davis is next to author Rachel Carson, who holds a tiger swallowtail butterfly. John Osmun, department head in 1959, is holding a butterfly net on the other side of Davis.
The statue will be made of bronze and is a work in progress by sculptor Susie Chisholm of Savannah, Ga. Tom Turpin, an entomology professor at Purdue and member of the committee behind the statue, said the idea is to make it “interactive;” the statue will have an area on which students and visitors can sit and take pictures. The project will cost about $200,000 — two-thirds of the funds are from donors.
Though the exact location is undetermined, the statue will be placed somewhere on the front lawn of the Agriculture Administration Building (AGAD) by Pfendler Hall, with landscaping designed to complement the pollinator garden nearby.
HISTORY COMES TO LIFE. Though they grew up in different decades in the 20th century, Turpin said the statue depicts the three at various ages if they were ever to meet each other at the same time — Davis at 42, Osmun as a little boy at age 7 and Carson post-high school at age 17 or 18.
The trio is involved in activities that represent their passions. “...John (has) captured a butterfly in a net. Rachel Carson is taking the butterfly out of the net and is holding it in her hand,” Turpin said. J.J. Davis, as a “mentor for all things outreach and education, is sort of standing watching the young woman help the young boy learn about insects.”
The “educational moment” depicted in the statue captures what Turpin said is the outreach and wonder that Purdue tries to keep alive. “When J.J. Davis was hired, he began to accumulate the structure of the department as we know it today,” Turpin said. “He also was really instrumental at putting together what we know as extension and outreach.”
Turpin said he thinks the most interesting part of the statue is the butterfly Carson is holding. Unlike the other all-bronze elements, the butterfly will appear in its natural colors. The three will be 25 percent larger than life size, so Davis, who was about 5 feet, 6 inches, will be 7 feet tall in the final version of the statue.
Gary Bennett, a professor of urban entomology at Purdue, said the case for having a statue dedicated to the entomology department was a sound one. “I think it brings a lot of attention to our department and gives us a permanent presence on the campus,” he said.
Carson is not associated with Purdue in an academic way like Davis and Osmun, but Bennett said she received an homage in the statue because she is nationally known for her environmental advocacy in her book “Silent Spring.”
“She wasn’t accurate in a lot of things she had to say, but she did bring a lot of attention to the misuse of pesticides and environmental concerns,” he said.
Bennett said Carson is a good person to look to in terms of “outreach,” something Purdue achieves by making entomology readily accessible to the general public. “The whole outreach effort has been very successful and has brought national and international attention to this department,” Bennett said.
The author is an editorial intern for PCT.