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Grote, Augustus Radcliffe

Grote, Augustus Radcliffe

(b. Aigburth, near Liverpool, England, 7 February 1841; d. Hildesheim, Germany, 12 September 1903)


Grote was the son of Friedrich Rudolf Grote, a German from Danzig, and Anna Radcliffe, daughter of a Welsh ironmaster. As a youth he immigrated to Staten Island, New York, where his parents had purchased a farm. Grote’s formal education was interrupted by the panic of 1857, and although by his own account he continued his studies on the Continent, the only degree he is known to have taken was the honorary M.A. conferred in 1874 by Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

Grote’s first papers on the Lepidoptera were published in 1862, and he rapidly became an authority on the taxonomy of the order, especially that of the noctuid moths. Many of his early studies were written with Coleman T. Robinson. For almost two decades, except for a residence of several years in Demopolis, Alabama, Grote held various positions at the Buffalo (New York) Society of Natural Sciences. After the death of his father in 1880 he left his work at the society and the editorship of the North American Entomologist and returned to Staten Island.

Pressed by debts in the following year, Grote sold his valuable collection of Lepidoptera to the British Museum, and permanently left the United States in 1884. He took up residence in Bremen and later in Hildesheim, where he became an honorary curator of the Roemer-Museum. He died of endocarditis. Grote married twice. His first wife, Julia, died after the birth of their second child; his second wife, Gesa Maria, survived him.

One of the leading American entomologists of the nineteenth century, Grote was the first in the United States to study the Noctuidae in real depth, giving attention to the insufficient or confusing species descriptions of some European taxonomists. Although he investigated most areas of lepidopterology, his greatest contribution was the accurate description of a vast number of species. Almost 1,250 of Grote’s names are included (many as synonyms) in current checklists, as are over 140 credited to Grote and Robinson.

Grote published over 600 papers in numerous journals. A composer and accomplished organist, he also found time to write poetry and popular articles on science. Although neither a Fiske nor a Huxley, he entered the controversy over science and religion, and several of his books suggested a logical conciliation on the basis of relative value.


I. Original Works. Citations for most of Grote’s entomological papers and checklists are included in W. Horn and S. Schenkling, Index Litteraturae Entomologiace… bis inclusive 1863, II (Berlin, 1928), 465; and W. Derksen and U. Scheiding-Göllner,Index Litteraturae Entomologicae 1864–1900, 11 (Berlin. 1965, 212–221.

Among his full-length works are the semipopular An Illustrated Essay on the Noctuidae of North America (London, 1882) and the two books on science and religion, Genesis I-II: An Essay on the Bible Narrative of Creation (New York, 1880), and The New Infidelity (New York, 1881). Grote’s poetry was collected as Rip van Winkle: A Sun Myth and Other Poems (Loncdon, 1882).

II. Secondary Literature. The only extensive biographical summary is Ronald S. Wilkinson, intro. to the repr. ed. of Grote’s An Illustrated Essay on the Noctuidae of North America (Hampton, Middlesex, 1971), in which the earlier lit. is cited. Grote’s own autobiographical sketch was used by C. J. S. Bethune in his obituary, “Professor Augustus Radcliffe Grote,” in Report of the Entomological Society of Ontario... 1903 (1904), 109–1l2.

Ronald S. Wilkinson

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