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Kinsey with gall wasps 1930 When Alfred Kinsey first arrived in Bloomington, he taught Indiana University students introductory biology, advanced entomology, and insect taxonomy. As a teacher, he greatly preferred the field to the classroom, taking his students on frequent trips so that they could see nature at work. In 1926, he authored a high school textbook, An Introduction to Biology, that eschewed theoretical lectures for experimentation and firsthand experience. In it, Kinsey came out strongly in favor of Darwin's theory of natural selection -- notably so, given that a Dayton, Tennessee, jury had convicted John Scopes of illegally teaching the theory of evolution only a year before. Like his father, Kinsey had little patience for imperfection, expecting the same diligence and standards of his students to which he drove himself. One of his graduate students recounted a final examination in which Kinsey gave him a few seconds to glimpse the contents of a box of gall wasps, and then demanded that he say how many species the box contained.

Changing the World Through Science
At heart Kinsey saw himself not as a teacher, but as a scientist of the first rank and a missionary whose destiny was to change the world through science. He wanted his work to go beyond cataloging and enumerating one species of insect after another, to plumb for answers to the great questions of evolution, natural selection, and the origin of species.

Intense Collecting
Gall wasps mounted in display case In pursuit of big answers, he turned his scholarly eye once more to the gall wasp, the subject of his doctoral dissertation. In a series of lengthy field trips around the country between 1926 and 1929, and in Mexico in 1931 and 1932, Kinsey and his protégés collected some 17,000 gall wasps and 54,000 galls. On these expeditions he drove his students as hard as he drove himself, insisting that they gather specimens from sunrise until sunset, then by the light of the campfire sort the day's haul into individual cloth bags. Back in Bloomington, the students were tasked with mounting each wasp on its own pin and affixing beneath it its own personal label.

No Two Alike
Finally, in 1930, Kinsey published the fruit of his labors, a monograph entitled The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips: A Study in the Origin of Species. Though well received by fellow entomologists, the volume was somewhat less effective as an attention-getter, for gall wasps were -- and remain today -- an extremely narrow specialization within the already specialized world of entomology. Nonetheless, one has to admire Kinsey's achievement as well as his dedication: Of the 93 species that he described in the book, 48 had never been identified before. Beyond that, Kinsey discovered that no two individual wasps were alike, and in this he found ready proof of the tenet of natural variation, that no two individuals -- be they insects or people -- are made alike. In 1935 Kinsey published his second major work on gall wasps, The Origin of Higher Categories in Cynips, but by then his interest in human sexuality was pulling him in another direction. He would never publish another monograph about gall wasps.



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