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Thaddeus William Harris (November 12, 1795 – January 16, 1856) was an American entomologist and botanist. For the last few years of his life Harris was the librarian of Harvard University.[1]

Thaddeus William Harris
Thaddeus William Harris 1795-1856.jpg
BornNovember 12, 1795 (1795-11-12)
DiedJanuary 16, 1856 (1856-01-17) (aged 60)
Scientific career
InfluencesWilliam D. Peck

Life and careerEdit

Harris was a native of Dorchester, Massachusetts.[2] His father, Thaddeus Mason Harris, was a Unitarian minister who served at the church on Meeting House Hill and had also for a time served as librarian of Harvard. Harris himself received his undergraduate education at Harvard, and then went on to study medicine there, receiving his M.D. in 1820. He went into medical practice with a Mr. Holbrook, whose daughter Catherine he married. Thaddeus and Catherine had 12 children. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1827.[3]

In 1831 Harris became the librarian of Harvard. He replaced Benjamin Peirce who had just died in this position. Harris' study of insects was a result of his having interacted with William D. Peck while a student at Harvard. Harris lectured on various topics related to his work as a naturalist while he was Harvard librarian, and originated the Harvard Natural History Society for the students. In 1837 he was appointed one of the commissioners for a zoological and botanical survey of Massachusetts, the result of which was his Systematic Catalogue of the Insects of Massachusetts in which 2,350 species are enumerated.[4] He sought a permanent appointment to the faculty in 1842, but the position was given to Asa Gray instead. In 1841 he published the first edition of his Report on the Insects of Massachusetts, Injurious to Vegetation, which was revised until 1862, six years after his death.[5]

He was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. He also published A Treatise on some of the Insects of New England which are Injurious to Vegetation (1842).[4]

In 2008, Clark Elliot, a retired Harvard archivist, had his book Thaddeus William Harris (1795–1856): Nature, Science, and Society in the Life of an American Naturalist published by Lehigh University Press.[6]


  1. ^ Alfred Claghorn Potter, Charles Knowles Bolton (1897), The Librarians of Harvard College 1667-1877, Cambridge, Mass: Library of Harvard University
  2. ^ Chest of Books article on Harris
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  4. ^ a b   Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Harris, Thaddeus William" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  5. ^ Calhoun, John V. 2009. The complex history of Insects Injurious to Vegetation by Thaddeus W. Harris, with a date correction and lectotype designation for Vanessa comma Harris (Nymphalidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society 63:154-163.
  6. ^ article on bio of Harris Archived 2010-07-28 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit