University of California: In Memoriam, 1985

Philip H. Timberlake, Biological Control: Riverside

Associate Entomologist Emeritus

Philip H. Timberlake was born on June 5, 1883 in Bethel, Maine. He died quietly of apparent heart failure on April 17, 1981 at the home of his daughter in Riverside, California.

Timb, as he was affectionately known by his friends, obtained the A.B. degree in 1908 in Liberal Arts from Bowdoin College with a major in Greek and Latin. In 1910 he received the A.M. degree in Biology from Harvard University.

During the period 1909-1914, Timberlake was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology, as “Agent and Expert” conducting research in biological control of pest insects, working mostly with parasitic insects. From 1914-1924 he was Associate Entomologist at the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Experiment Station in Honolulu, where his research dealt primarily with parasites and predators for biological control. In 1924 he was appointed Associate Entomologist in the Department of Biological Control at the then Citrus Experiment Station, where he served until retirement in 1950.

Timb's retirement was only a formality since he continued his regular work schedule--at home during most evenings and in his laboratory-office each workday for about 10 or more hours. His research required the almost continuous use of a binocular microscope. His eyesight slowly failed in later years and in November 1980, at age 97 years, it reached the point where he could no longer continue his work.

The appointment of Timberlake in the Department of Biological Control in 1924 was motivated by his extensive knowledge of the taxonomy of parasitic Hymenoptera and of predaceous coccinelid beetles, groups that are most important in biological control of pest insects. However, by the late 1920s and thereafter until his death, his almost sole professional interest was the taxonomy of wild or solitary bees, principally of the genus Perdita. There are many species of Perdita, most having been described by Timb. They are tiny in size, some being no larger than the head of a pin. These bees are primarily pollinators of many species of plants.

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Philip Timberlake described and named about 800 species of bees that were new to science. He was so highly regarded by taxonomic entomologists throughout the world that 33 new species of insects were named as patronyms for him by others. Since most of the insects which he studied were minute, he developed a tiny and precise script using pen and ink to put the necessary information about each specimen on the very small label that is affixed to the pinned insect. The tiny script was a challenge to decipher to both colleagues and secretaries.

Timberlake published over 100 scientific papers, mostly on bees, in addition to 8 volumes on the genus Perdita. His total insect collection contained about 250,000 specimens of which about 100,000 are Hymenoptera. Timb's bee collection is considered to be the largest and best in North America. The entire collection, his library and papers, have been donated to the University of California.

Few of his colleagues or others on campus ever became well acquainted with Timb. He was a very kindly man who, over the years, had a positive influence upon the early interest in insects and upon the professional development of young entomologists. Several since have become renowned scientists, particularly in the field of systematics. He was so completely engrossed in his research on bees that he really did not appreciate unnecessary interruption or conversation. He became an “institution” in the Department of Entomology--and we miss him.

Mr. Timberlake is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth Paldanius of Riverside; Priscilla MacLeod of San Anselmo; one son, Dr. Philip F. Timberlake of Newport Beach; one sister, Margaret Simkin of Claremont; 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. His wife, Edith Timberlake, died in July 1972. She was an aunt of former President Richard M. Nixon. Considerable local publicity resulted when the elderly scientist and his wife were invited to and attended the Presidential inauguration.

A. M. Boyce G. Gordh E. F. Legner H. T. Reynolds

About this text
Courtesy of Academic Senate, Berkeley Division, 320 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley CA 94720-5842
Title: 1985, University of California: In Memoriam
By:  University of California (System) Academic Senate, Author
Date: 1985
Contributing Institution: Academic Senate, Berkeley Division, 320 Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley CA 94720-5842
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