Edmond de Sélys Longchamps

Baron Michel Edmond de Selys Longchamps[a] (25 May 1813 – 11 December 1900) was a Belgian Liberal Party politician and scientist. Selys Longchamps has been regarded as the founding figure of odonatology, the study of the dragonflies and damselflies. His wealth and influence enabled him to amass one of the finest collections of neuropteroid insects and to describe many species from around the world. His collection is housed in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Edmond de Sélys Longchamps
Michel Edmond de Selys Longchamps.jpg
Edmond de Selys Longchamps, wearing the (green) Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.
President of the Senate
In office
3 August 1880 – 23 July 1884
Preceded byCamille de Tornaco
Succeeded byJules d'Anethan
Personal details
Born(1813-05-25)25 May 1813
Paris, France
Died11 December 1900(1900-12-11) (aged 87)
Liège, Belgium
Political partyLiberal Party
Edmond de Sélys Longchamps
Scientific career
FieldsZoology, Odonatology
Author abbrev. (zoology)Sélys
Coat of arms of Selys-Longchamps


Selys was a wealthy aristocrat born in Paris to Michel Laurent de Selys Longchamps and Marie-Denise Gandolphe. He was educated at home by private tutors and never attended school or university. Nevertheless, he became known as the world's leading authority on Odonata as well as an expert on Neuroptera and European Orthoptera. He was also a leading ornithologist. A Liberal Party representative in the Belgian Parliament, he became Councillor for Waremme in 1846, entered the Belgian Senate in 1855, and was finally elected President of the Belgian Senate from 1880 to 1884.[1][2]

His early interest in birds is shown by a book of coloured figures of Belgian species painted when he was 16. Ornithology remained a lifelong interest and he assembled an ornithological museum at Waremme, maintaining very large collections of birds, both European and exotic, including a great auk and an egg. He was also interested in small mammals. At 18 (1831) he published his first scientific paper, a list of the insects of Liège and in 1837 a list of the dragonflies or Odonata and butterflies and moths or Lepidoptera of Belgium. From that date on, a continuous flow of papers on the Odonata appeared. The works were often monographic, examples being, 1840 Monographie des Libellulides d'Europeand 1850 Revue des Odonates d'Europe, two large works on "Gomphines" and "Calopterygines". There were also systematic works containing phylogenetic analyses, tables and keys) of the "Gomphines", Calopterygines", Agrionines", "Cordulines" and ( generic only) "Aeschnines", the only family not so treated being the difficult "Libellulines". There were (very numerous) local faunas for dragonflies (synopses), appendices to travel works, phylogenetic and morphological notes.

Selys met and began a collaboration with Hermann August Hagen in 1845; They jointly produced the Revue and two monographs. Hagen also aided work on the Synopses and sometimes Selys is given as the author in Kirby's catalogue when Hagen is (in many such instances it is clearly stated by Selys that he had never seen the insects and that Hagen was the author). Selys is the properly attributed author of well over 1,000 species, an enormous number compared to Hagen and more than half of known species. Aware of being an "homme distrait" (distracted man), Selys often affixed names to undescribed species in his collection (nomina nuda). This led to much later nomenclatural confusion. Selys was an inveterate traveller, spending long periods in most European countries and being an honorary member of almost all European entomological societies including the Royal Entomological Society which so honoured him in 1871. He helped to found the Société Entomologique de Belgique in 1856.

He amassed the greatest collection of Neuroptera and Orthoptera in the world, incorporating the collections of Pierre André Latreille, Jules Pièrre Rambur, Jean Guillaume Audinet-Serville, and Félix Édouard Guérin-Méneville, and wrote over 250 papers some of which are masterworks. His collection is in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, although there are de Selys types in many other museums, including the Hope Department of Entomology, University of Oxford. He died at Liège.



Selys published over 250 works on entomology, ornithology and other topics in natural history:

  • Observations sur les phénomènes périodique du règne animal, et particulièrement sur les migrations des oiseaux en Belgique, de 1841 à 1846 Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique 21 pdf from GDZ[permanent dead link]
  • Faune belge. Première partie. Indication méthodique des mammifères, oiseaux, reptiles et poissons, observés jusqu'ici en Belgique. Faune Belge i–xii + 1–310 (1842)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Pronunciation: French: [lɔ̃ʃɑ̃]



  • Essig, E. O. (1931). A History of Entomology. New York: Macmillan Company. pp. 762–764.
  • Wasscher, M.Th.; Dumont, H.J. (2013). "Life and Work of Michel Edmond de Selys Longchamps (1813–1900), the Founder of Odonatology". Odonatologica. 42 (4): 369–402.


  • Coen, J., Michel-Edmond de Selys-Longchamps 1813–1900. Gentilhomme et démocrate, 1982, 217 p.
  • N.N., A la mémoire de Michel Edmond Baron de Selys-Longchamps 1813–1900, Liège, Impr. H. Vaillart-Carmanne, 1901, 51 p.
  • Yans, M., L'Atavisme d'un grand parlementaire de Léopold II : Michel Edmond Baron de Selys-Longchamps, in : Cahiers Léopoldiens, New Series, 1959–1960, nr. 7, p. 59.
  • Nicole Caulier-Mathy en Nicole Haesenne-Peremans, 2008 Une vie au fil des jours.Journal d’un notable politicien et naturaliste, Michel-Edmond de Selys-Longchamps (1823–1900), 2 vol., LXV-1747 p., 25 ill., 2 genealogische tafels.(Collectie Groot in-8°).

Further readingEdit

  • Kirby, W.F. 1890. A synonymic catalogue of Neuroptera Odonata, or dragonflies. Gurney and Jackson, London, ix + 202 pp.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Camille de Tornaco
President of the Senate
Succeeded by
Jules d'Anethan