I did not do it first.

To some of my entomology friends the title of this blog may not seem particularly original.  That is probably because they are familiar with the book “Insects Did It First” by Roger D. Akre, Gregory S. Paulson and E. Paul Catts (1992). I had my heart set on this blog title (with the subtitle “Can Engineers Do It Better?”) before I was aware of the book.

My used-copy of the book of the same name as this blog. (Picture by Marianne Alleyne)

My copy of the book with the same name as this blog. (Picture by Marianne Alleyne)

All three authors were entomologists and associated with Washington State University (Dr. Paulson now teaches at Schippenburg University of Pennsylvania). The book “Insects Did It First” is a collection of ideas, started in 1964 by Akre, that linked an “advanced” human technology to insects. The book is a perfect example of how to get the general public to become more interested in the natural history of insects. The book is even more endearing because of the wonderful, often humorous, drawings by Catts.


Typically whimsical drawing by E. Paul Catts from “Insects Did It First”. – picture featured on Gregory Paulson’s website (click drawing).

All 81 short “chapters” of the book cover an achievement in which insects were far ahead of humans. Some examples are obvious and famous (e.g. insects as builders of energy efficient structures), other are less well known to non-entomologists (e.g. preserving and storing food without freezing).

In some ways this blog is similar to the Akre, Paulson and Catts book – but using a media that may be more accessible to more people. Just like the author-trio my ultimate goal is to promote insects as inspirational to those outside of entomology. I hope to especially reach engineers, designers and entrepreneurs. I may cover some of the same topics, but since the book was last published in 1992 (Dr. Akre passed away in 1994 and Dr. Catts in 1996) I will be able to give more updated information. The blog will also be different in that I want to go beyond natural history and delve a little bit deeper into the topics of technology and innovation. In addition, there are characteristics of insects bodies, their behaviors, the ecosystems they live in, etc. that I think have not yet been considered in depth by engineers. I will promote those topics too. For instance, the Akre book does not cover the springing mechanism of Collembola which I covered in my previous post (maybe because Collembola are not insects?).

Ultimately I hope that my blog will be thought of as fondly as the Akre book.

See Dr. Paulson’s website for some sample chapters and drawings.

And then get your copy of the book at Amazon. The book is out of print now but there are still some used copies available.

(Stay tuned for next week’s blog post (also on a topic not covered by the Akre book) on how insect-inspired robots evolved between famous X-files episode and now.)


2 thoughts on “I did not do it first.

  1. Pingback: The insect cuticle: (2) hierarchical structure |

  2. I’m not sure if you are still updating this blog but I thought I’d let you know that I just “dropped” a second edition of my book, Insects Did It First. It is completely revised with a new coauthor, Eric Eaton. Sadly, Drs. Akre and Catts have both died since the first edition was printed but I hope they would have enjoyed version 2.0. Here is a link to the publisher.

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