Etienne Leopold Trouvelot


Artist Biography:

Born in 1827, Étienne Léopold Trouvelot was a French artist, astronomer and amateur entomologist. He had political connections and leanings towards the republican side. Following the coup d’état by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1851, he fled to the US. He settled in Medford, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. As silk moths were being killed off by various diseases in the US, Trouvelot took an interest in native North American silk moths which he believed could be used for silk production. For reasons unknown, he brought some gypsy moth eggs from Europe and raised the larvae in a forest behind his house. Unfortunately, some of it escaped and there have been conflicting reports on the action taken. After this incident, he turned to astronomy and putting his skills as an artist to good use. He illustrated his observations. He then was invited to join the staff at Harvard College Observatory and used a refractor for a year. During the course of his life, he produced 7,000 quality astronomical illustrations. Alongside his art, he produced 50 scientific papers. He then returned to France, where he worked with photography and engaged in a bitter rivalry with his boss, astronomer Jules Janssen. He died at the age of 67 in Meudon, France. Unfortunately, the magnitude of the problem caused by gypsy moths became apparent to government officials and to this day they are considered a serious pest and alongside other foliage-eating pests and costs an estimated $868 million in annual damages.

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