The University of Nebraska first opened its doors to students in 1871. The following year insects were recognized as being worthy of study, and courses were added to the curriculum. The 1872-73 catalogue stated, "The Zoology of Agriculture will include the habits, diseases and treatment of livestock, the anatomy of the horse, the cow, the sheep and other farm animals, as well as a special consideration of insects injurious to vegetation." Entomology also was listed as one of the courses being offered.
Samuel Aughey, Professor of Natural Sciences, handled the earliest instruction in entomology. However, only a few students took Entomology courses until interest in Entomology increased in 1895-96. During the same year, Conway G. McMillan obtained a Masters degree with a major in Geology and minor in Entomology, the first graduate degree from UNL.
In 1888, Lawrence Bruner, a recognized Nebraska entomologist, was appointed to the University staff and over the next few years began teaching. However, it was not until 1895 that the Regents established the Department of Entomology and Ornithology with Lawrence Bruner as its Chairman. For several years, Bruner handled the Department with whatever assistance he could secure from his "special students" as they pursued their entomological studies. This assistance was performed in both the instructional and the experimental activities of the Department.
Several of these early students became prominent entomologists and held responsible positions in many areas of the United States. Among them were: Harry G. Barber, Walter D. Hunter, J.C. Crawford, M.A. Carriker, Jr., W. Dwight Pierce, Paul R. Jones, William H. Goodwin, Harry S. Smith, Myron H. Swenk, Ralph W. Dawson, Leroy M. Gates, and Clarence E. Mickel. Others who came along a few years later and became distinguished professionally included: Cornelius B. Phillip, Robert H. Nelson, and Orlando S. Bare.
The courses offered in 1895 were Preliminary (or General) Entomology, Economic Entomology, Systematic Entomology, Horticultural Entomology, and Domestic Entomology. As the Department's research program expanded and teaching staff grew, basic courses were updated and new courses added, with some courses combined or dropped as conditions warranted.
Current Graduate Study
Research interests, programs, and backgrounds of the faculty are diverse and allow students to pursue many avenues of scientific investigation. In the early years, taxonomic and systematic studies were the most common subjects for advanced degrees. Up until 1950, almost 60 percent of the submitted theses were in these subject areas. A wider choice of subjects has been investigated in the past 50 years because of the larger teaching staff and expanded research programs.