Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Helena Pycior

Committee Members

Rachel Buff, Margo Anderson


Entomology, Flea, Microscope, Progressive, Victorian


Although the Victorian and Progressive periods saw a rise in entomological research, fleas were not a priority for scientific investigation. The discovery of fleas as disease vectors in the late nineteenth century marked a turning-point in interest in fleas. Expanding this standard history of fleas, the thesis probes flea research conducted outside the confines of disease during 1840-1930. It documents and analyzes the contributions of Louis Bertolotto, William Heckler, Charles Rothschild, Karl Jordan, and L. O. Howard. Whereas those working in the new profession of entomology saw fleas as disease vectors, these men had different relationships with fleas: Bertolotto and Heckler engaged with fleas as entertainers, Rothschild and Jordan viewed fleas as collectible commodities to be catalogued, while Howard pursued fleas as household pests. Each relationship determined methods of study and questions asked. The thesis argues that the variant relationships provided impetus for substantial contributions to scientific understanding of fleas.