Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell

Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell (1866–1948) was an entomologist and systematic biologist who published nearly 4,000 papers, some of them only a few lines long. Cockerell's speciality was the insect order Hymenoptera (bees and wasps), an area of study where he described specimens from the United States, the West Indies, Honduras, the Philippines, Africa, and Asia. Cockerell named at least 5,500 species and varieties of bees and almost 150 genera and subgenera, representing over a quarter of all species of bees known during his lifetime. In addition to his extensive studies of bees, he published papers on scale insects, slugs, moths, fish scales, fungi, roses and other flowers, mollusks, and a wide variety of other plants and animals.

Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell
Profile portrait of Cockerell
Born(1866-08-22)22 August 1866
Norwood, Greater London
Died26 January 1948(1948-01-26) (aged 81)[1]
San Diego, California
Resting placeColumbia Cemetery, Boulder, Colorado
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materMiddlesex Hospital Medical School
Spouse(s)Annie Fenn Cockerell, Wilmatte Porter Cockerell
Scientific career
FieldsEntomology, systematic biology
InstitutionsNew Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station, New Mexico Normal University, University of Colorado, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History
Notable studentsCharlotte Cortlandt Ellis
Author abbrev. (botany)Cockerell
Author abbrev. (zoology)Ckll.[2]

Personal lifeEdit

Cockerell with his wife Wilmatte Porter Cockerell, 1935

Cockerell was born in Norwood, Greater London, and died in San Diego, California.

He married Annie Sarah Fenn in 1891 (she died in 1893) and Wilmatte Porter in 1900. In 1901, he named the ultramarine blue chromodorid Mexichromis porterae (now Felimare porterae) in her honor. After their marriage in 1900, they frequently went on collecting expeditions together and assembled a large private library of natural history films, which they showed to schoolchildren and public audiences to promote the cause of environmental conservation.

After his death he was buried in Columbia Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado.[3]

Professional lifeEdit

Between 1891 and 1901, Cockerell was the curator of the public museum of Kingston, Jamaica, professor of entomology of the New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1900–03, he was an instructor in biology at the New Mexico Normal School. While there, he taught and mentored Charlotte Cortlandt Ellis.[4]

In from 1904 to 1904, Cockerell was the curator of the Colorado College Museum and, in 1904, he became a lecturer on entomology and in 1906 professor of systematic zoology, at the University of Colorado, where he worked with Junius Henderson in establishing the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. During World War II, he operated the Desert Museum in Palm Springs, California.[5]

In 1912, Cockerell first described the Megachile zexmeniae, a species of leafcutter bee.[6]


Cockerell was author of more than 2,200 articles in scientific publications, especially on the Hymenoptera, Hemiptera and Mollusca, and on paleontology and various phases of evolution, plus some 1,700 other works, including treatises on social reform and education. He was one of the most prolific taxonomists in history, publishing descriptions of over 9,000 species and genera of insects alone, some 6,400 of which were bees and some 1,000 mollusks, arachnids, fungi, mammals, fish and plants.[7]

This includes descriptions of numerous fossil taxa, such as the landmark study, Some Fossil Insects from Florissant, Colorado (1913). The standard author abbreviation Cockerell is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[8] In an obituary note that appeared in the Nature on 14 February 1948, R.B. Benson observed that Cockerell "acquired the habit of hurrying his ideas and observations into print as soon as he could. The habit persisted throughout his long life, so that almost all his work appeared in the form of short papers."


Cockerell and Wilmatte traveled to the United Kingdom in 1921. While there, they visited the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh where, according to himself in 1937, Isaac Bayley Balfour proved that the plant Primula ellisiae was a distinct species from P. rusbyi. He had named this taxon in honor of its discoverer, one of his students, Charlotte Cortlandt Ellis.[9][10] However, at present this taxon is regarded as a synonym of P. rusbyi.[11]


A dormitory in the Engineering Quad at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the moth Givira theodori are named in his honor.


Taxa named by Cockerell include:

Name Year Unit Location Notes Images

Anthidium exhumatum


Florissant Formation

United States

A mason bee

Anthidium scudderi


Florissant Formation

United States

A mason bee

Archimyrmex rostratus


Green River Formation

United States

A myrmeciine ant




a land slug genus

Dinopanorpa megarche


Khutsin Formation


A scorpion fly

Hydriomena? protrita


Florissant Formation

United States

A butterfly

Protostephanus ashmeadi


Florissant Formation

A crown wasp



Baltic amber & Florissant Formation, Colorado

United States

An Eocene wasp genus

Tortrix? destructus


Florissant Formation

United States

A moth, moved to Paleolepidopterites destructus

Tortrix? florissantanus


Florissant Formation

United States

A moth, moved to Paleolepidopterites florissantanus

Trigona corvina


Central America & South America

A stingless bee


  1. ^ Gardner, Sue Ann, "Theodore Dru Alison Cockerell". Retrieved 5 November 2017.
  2. ^ Cockerell, T. D. A. (July 1897) "Contributions to Coccidology.-II." The American Naturalist. Vol. 31, No. 367, pp. 588-592
  3. ^ William A Weber, ed. (2004). The Valley of the Second Sons. ISBN 9780971060999.
  4. ^ Eugene Jercinovic (21 February 2008). "Charlotte Ellis of the Sandia Mountains" (PDF). The New Mexico Botanist.
  5. ^ Young, Patricia Mastick (1983). Desert Dream Fulfilled: The History of the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Palm Springs, California: Palm Springs Desert Museum, Inc. pp. 24–25. LCCN 83080384. OCLC 19266381. LCC QH541.5.D4 Y68 1983
    - The New International Encyclopaedia. Vol. V (2 ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead and Company. 1914. p. 534.
  6. ^ "Megachile". BioLib. 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  7. ^ Zuparko 2017.
  8. ^ International Plant Names Index.  Cockerell.
  9. ^ Cockerell, T D A (March 1937). "Recollections of a Naturalist IV, The Amateur Botanist". BIOS. 8 (1): 12–18.
  10. ^ Pollard, Charles Louis; Cockerell, Theodore Dru Alison (6 August 1902). "Four new plants from New Mexico". Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 15: 177–179. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Primula ellisiae". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 22 March 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Mallis, Arnold (1971). American Entomologists. Rutgers University Press. pp. 357–362.
  • Zuparko, Robert (2017). "The Published Names of T.D.A. Cockerell". Essig Museum of Entomology. University of California, Berkeley.

External linksEdit