Dorothy Feir, ESA Fellow (2008)

Dr. Dorothy Feir (deceased 16 March 2008), a professor at Saint Louis University (SLU), was elected as Fellow in 1993. Dr. Feir studied many aspects of insect physiology during her career. She devoted much of her research to the large milkweed bug, Oncopeltusfasciatus (Dallas). Dr. Feir is known for being the first to discover the causal bacterium of Lyme disease in Missouri ticks and for her philanthropy.

Dr. Feir was born in Saint Louis, MO on 29 January 1929. In her youth, Dr. Feir enjoyed learning about insects from her grandmother, as well as exploring the exhibits of the Missouri History Museum. In 1950, Feir received her B.S. in zoology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, followed by her M.S., also in zoology, at the University of Wyoming, Laramie in 1956. In 1960, Dr. Feir earned her Ph.D. in entomology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (UW), one of the first females to do so.

Upon receipt of her Ph.D., Dr. Feir worked for one year as an instructor in the Biology Department at the University of Buffalo. Feir then joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at SLU in 1961 as an assistant professor. She was elevated to the rank of associate professor in 1964, and became a professor in 1967. As a faculty member, Dr. Feir advised many graduate students, and spoke fondly of her relationships with her former students.

Dr. Feir’s groundbreaking discovery of the bacterium in Missouri ticks that causes Lyme disease is her most widely known accomplishment. However, she also studied juvenile hormone in milkweed bugs and the use of maggots to determine time of death, among other research. During her career at SLU, Feir taught a wide variety of courses ranging from physiology to biochemistry. Dedicated to helping new generations of entomologists, she established the Entomological Foundation Lillian and Alex Feir Graduate Student Travel Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, or Molecular Biologyin honor of her parents, and left an estate of $1.7 million to the UW Department of Entomology. She authored over 80 publications during the course of her research.

Feir greatly helped to advance women in entomology during her life. She was the first woman to serve on the faculty at SLU, the first woman elected to the ESA Governing Board, on which she served from 1981–1984, and she served as ESA President, elected in 1989. She also served as Chair of ESA’s Physiology and Toxicology Section. Throughout her career, Dr. Feir held leadership positions in numerous national professional organizations. Within the state of Missouri, she was elected Fellow of the Missouri Academy of Sciences (MAS) in 1993 and received the MAS Most Distinguished Scientist Award in 1995.