A letter from the founder

The Amateur Entomologists' Society was founded in 1935 by Leonard Tesch. In 1952, a letter from the founder was published in The Bulletin and, due to its historical significance to the society, we have reproduced here.

Dear Fellow Members,

Greying hair and an increasing sense of remoteness, if nothing else, remind me that many moons have passed since the AES had its birth, and, as your Founder, I have been asked by those now in control of its destinies to write a short account of how that momentous event - much more momentous in the entomological world than I then guessed - came to pass.

From my earliest days I had been interested in insect life and, so far as a rather nomadic existence in my younger years permitted, I joined the ranks of collectors while still at school. The hobby remained with me in later days and in common with all collectors I suffered the usual vicissitudes of fortune and experienced catastrophes known only too well to us all. My larvae died for no apparent reason, or vanished completely; pupae failed to emerge; the newly-born refused to eat; apparently eligible partners flatly declined to make a match of it, and so forth. For none of these disasters could I find in the then existing text-books any real cause or remedy, and in 1935 I decided that the best way of finding out would be to get in touch with others in similar difficulties and pool our ideas.

That was the original brain wave from which our now world-wide Society sprang. A modest advertisement for correspondence with amateur collectors brought half a dozen replies; a second roped in about a dozen more and in about a year we had what we then called a correspondence club of some 38 members. I acted as the focal point, being editor secretary, and printer all rolled into one (for we had a monthly periodical produced on a homely "jelly-pan" with questions and answers, exchanges and so forth, which was circulated to all concerned).

I had a mild surprise at the outset when I found that instead of the schoolboys whom I expected to be interested, men older and wiser than myself came rolling up! That shook me a bit, but not so much as the fact that they were joined by others whose names were well known in scientific circles, and I quickly realised that my brain-child was rapidly outdistancing its parent, and that the scheme I had started, in all my amateur innocence, required a great deal more both of time and knowledge than I was able to give.

That problem solved itself about 1936 when an unexpected change in my business life made it impossible for me to carry on the good work, and it is at this point that the Society really emerged from the larval stage and, after a very short pupation, burgeoned forth into something like its present form. This is entirely due to the enterprise and energy of two of its members, Messrs. Cooper and Brangham. Not wishing to see the Club (as it then was) perish for want of nourishment, they nobly undertook to carry on in my stead, and from that time forth in its new guise as the AES, my little venture has gone from strength to strength. However long the Society may last and to whatever heights it may soar, those two names should be inscribed in letters of gold on its records.

This in no way diminishes the great credit that is due to the many others who, since that time, have taken a great part in the management and furtherance of the Society's work; but the fact remains that had it not been for the keenness of those two, and particularly, may I say, for the long and arduous Editorship of Mr Cooper, the Society might well have suffered the fate of so many similar enterprises, and died in infancy. My debt of gratitude to them, and to all the others, can never be told or repaid.

Within two or three years after they took the Society in hand, our membership had increased to 180 or thereabouts and printed Bulletins began to make their appearance, taking the place of the more primitive sheets of duplicated material. The rapidly increasing membership then demanded some form of specialisation, and our now well known leaflets on various individual aspects of entomology, with their host of valuable hints to the amateur, came into being. Between these and the present splendidly produced Handbooks and other literature there were many stages, each going one better than its predecessor, with the result that our Society now produces an encyclopaedic mine of information second to none, much of which is not to be found so far as I know, in any of the normal text-books on entomological subjects.

Not the least valuable of the Society's activities is its exchange section whereby members in widely separated localities are able to get into touch with each other and to fill gaps, both in their cabinets and their apparatus etc., which otherwise might present considerable difficulty. This is particularly the case in regard to collections of tropical and other exotic insects.

There is no need for me to enlarge on the present status of the Society in the entomological world. It stands high in the ranks of national scientific societies; its members range far and wide over the British Commonwealth and many other lands across the seas; well over a thousand collectors have joined its company, among them men of world-wide reputation and in short, it has become a powerful bastion in the realm of entomological research.

As with all enterprises which are of strong and rapid growth, there is a danger that this very fact may prove a hindrance inasmuch as the edifice may become cumbersome and top-heavy with the result that the burden of central administration becomes greater than can be comfortably supported by its officials. While I do not suggest this is the case with our Society, there is no doubt that those responsible for keeping the wheels running are finding it increasingly difficult, as witness the occasional appeals for more helpers which appear from time to time in the Bulletin. I do not intend to take advantage of this article to reiterate my former suggestions for easing the burden in any detail, but I should like to mention that, in my view, the only real palliative is decentralisation, and the splitting up of the work into some kind of regional formation, with sub-committees and district secretaries. But, as I say I not wish to labour that point here. It has already been aired enough!

For myself, the burden of years, combined with the exacting demands of my work as School Bursar-cum-Housemaster makes it well nigh impossible for me to devote much time to what remains my ultimate interest - entomology. Nevertheless this by no means implies that I am not mindful of the Society and its activities, and, this being so, may I close this account of its progress with an expression of the hope that come what may, those at the helm will never lose sight of the main object for which I founded it, namely the well-being and interests of the young amateur collector. It was he that I had in mind in 1935, it is he that has first place in my thoughts, and if - as I am sure will be the case - the Society continues to serve him as magnificently in the years to come as it has done hither to, then at least I can feel that in my time on earth I shall have contributed something to the world of youth and to the science of entomology. I shall also be able to say, in company with a far greater man, Si monumentum requiris circumspice!

To you all I say "God-speed and good hunting!" May the Society collectively and you individually have the best of good fortune in the years that follow.

Yours sincerely,

L. R. Tesch (Founder).

Published in The Bulletin in January 1952, p1-2.