Lovell, John Harvey

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Lovell, John Harvey

(b, Waldoboro, Maine, 21 October 1860; d. Waldoboro, 2 August 1939)

botany, entomology, apiology.

Lovell was the son of Harvey H. Lovell, a sea captain, and of Sophronia Caroline Bulfinch Lovell. An interest in natural history led him to study science at Amherst, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After graduating in 1882 he taught school for several years, but he resigned when his father became seriously ill. His father died in 1898, leaving him a fine house on the Medomac River and enough wealth to provide him with an income for life.

In 1899 he returned to Amherst and earned a master of arts degree, and in the same year he married Lottie Magune. She took an interest in his work and often assisted in collecting, labeling, and cataloging his insects. They had two sons, Harvey Bulfinch Lovell and Ralph Marston Lovell. Harvey developed interests similar to his father’s and received a Ph.D. in zoology from Harvard in 1933. They collaborated on six papers on flower pollination from 1932 to 1939.

The particular focus of John Lovell’s researches was established when he read Hermann Muller’s Fertilization of Flowers. The correlation which Müller had described between the colors of flowers and the kinds of insects that were attracted to them was repudiated by Felix Plateau in 1895. One of the main goals of Lovell’s early studies on the colors of flowers and color preferences of insects was to substantiate Muller’s findings.

Lovell found that the identification of wild bees was often difficult, and he decided to make a special study of them. He collected over 8,000 Apoidea specimens and described, sometimes with the assistance of Theodore D. A. Cockerell, thirty-two new species.

Lovell’s interest in bees and pollination soon led him to the study of apiculture and the photography of flowers. He combined these interests in The Flower and the Bee (1918) and Honey Plants of North America (1926), each of which contains more than 100 of his plant photographs.

Many of his photographs were also reproduced with his articles in the American Bee Journal and in about a thousand articles on plants which he wrote, beginning in 1926, for the Boston Globe and other newspapers.


I. Original Works. Lovell’s two books are The Flower and the Bee (1918) and Honey Plants of North America (1926). Beginning in 1913 he wrote seventy-eight articles for the four eds. of Amos Ives Root and E. R. Root, The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture (1923-1940). He wrote forty-one articles and notes for the American Bee Journal, which appeared from March 1913 to October 1937 (see indexes). Seventeen botanical articles by Lovell are listed in the Torrey Botanical Club Index to American Botanical Literature, 1886-1966, 4 vols., Ill (Boston, 1969), 111-112.

Eleven articles which he wrote describing Apoidea are listed in the bibliography of Covell (cited below). Of his insect collections, 156 type specimens are now part of the collections of the U. S. National Museum and the remainder are located in the Lovell Insect Museum, University of Louisville.

II. Secondary Literature. There is a discussion and summary of his Apoidea descriptions in Charles V. Covell, Jr., ’A Catalog of the J. H. Lovell Types of Apoidea (Hymenoptera), with Lectotype Designations,” in Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington,74 (1972), 10-18. For an outline of the history of apiculture in America, see John E. Eckert, Frank R. Shaw, and Everett F. Phillips, Beekeeping (New York, 1960), 7-10, 453-458. For a more recent understanding of pollination ecology, see K. Faegri and L. van der Pijl, The Principles of Pollination Ecology (Oxford-New York, 1966). For the history of pollination ecology down to 1873, see Hermann Müller, The Fertilization of Flowers, trans, into Eng. by Darcy Wentworth Thompson (London, 1883), 1-29. A useful biographical sketch is Frank C. Pellett, “John H. Lovell: Notes on the Life and Writings of the Maine Naturalist,” in American Bee Journal,79 (1939), 568-570, which includes two photographs of Lovell.

Frank N. Egerton III