Ethel Katherine Pearce


Ethel Katharine Pearce was an entomologist who devoted her time to the study and photography of Diptera (True Flies). She produced the first photographic atlas of flies, a forerunner to modern field guides.


Book Plate Ethel Katharine Pearce

Pearce’s work Typical Flies was first published in 1915. It was a general text, aimed at increasing interest in flies among the amateur naturalist community. What made it remarkable was the inclusion of ‘stepped’ photographs that showed the species at a level of detail that allowed for easy identification. The ‘stepping’ process that Pearce used was entirely of her own invention and allowed for an increased depth of field.

Photographs took her over a day to produce and required specimens be specially mounted so as to get the best quality of picture possible. Her pioneering work also included photographic records of field sites and habitat types, as well as practical guidance for collecting and preserving specimens; information that had previously been inaccessible to the amateur community in such an open format.


As picked by...


Zoe Simmons

Zoë M. Simmons, Collections Manager, Life Collections