Margaretta Hare Morris

December 3, 1797 - May 20, 1867

Margaretta Hare Morris was born in December 1797 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She lived the entirety of her adult life there with her family, having never married. With no formal training, she became a renowned entomologist studying various insect populations and life cycles. She did most of her research from home, rearing species in bell jars and other paraphernalia to see their egg laying habits, larvae stages, and eating patterns.

Morris’ first paper was published in 1841 about the Hessian fly. The fly was an invasive species that was destroying the wheat crop, causing a loss of income and an imposed ban from Europe on wheat crop from the America’s. She detailed in this paper the Hessian fly life cycle. After studying them in the field, and rearing them under a bell jar, she found that the flies laid their eggs in the grain of the wheat, rather than in the stalk. Therefore, destroying the eggs meant destroying the wheat, and the only solution was to procure uninfested seed.

Her second paper, on the same topic was published by the American Philosophical Society under the pretense that her research offered a solution to the Hessian fly problem, if her research could be reproduced and validated.

She wrote many articles for other magazines. In 1846, she wrote four articles for the “Ladies Department” of the American Agriculturalist about apple moths, clothes moths, natural history, and fleas. In 1847, she wrote five more articles for the American Agriculturalist about the cotton moths and ways to preserve cotton moths, the chinche, or bed bug, and how to remove them, the army worm, the shrew mole and cutworm, and the 17 year locust.

Her work on the 17 year locust was presented to members of the American Association of the Advancement of Science in 1850. Professor Agassiz presented on her behalf, as it was improper for a woman to speak in front of an audience of men. That same year, Morris was one of the first two women to join the association.