Frederick B. Isely (1873-1947)

Fred married Mary in 1901. Here is information about their family.

The following was written in 1998 by Fred's granddaughter, Anne Bingham.

Born to Elise and Christian Isely on the family farm in Fairview, Kansas, F. B. Isely became a biologist: researcher, college professor, and college dean. The following notes on his life are adapted from the proceedings of the American Society of Zoologists, September, 1948; an article in the Trinity Alumni Magazine of January 1948, and an obituary published in the Entomological News by fellow biologist and son-in-law, Gordon Alexander:

Frederick graduated from Fairmount College in Wichita, Kansas in 1899 as president of its first four-year graduating class. He received his M.S. degree from the University of Chicago in 1909, and did further advanced studies at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado.

After his graduation from college, F.B. Isely spent thirteen years teaching biology in secondary schools in Kansas and Oklahoma. He was Professor of Biology at Central College, Fayette, Missouri from 1912-1920; Dean and Professor of Biology at Culver-Stockton College, Canton, Missouri, 1920-1922; Dean and professor of Biology at Texas Women's College, Fort Worth, Texas, 1922-1931; and Professor of Biology at Trinity University, Waxahachie (later San Antonio), Texas, 1931-1946.

His first research paper, on the orthoptera of Kansas was published in 1909. This was followed by a period of research on the migration and distribution of fresh water mussels, sponsored by the U.S Bureau of Fisheries. In connection with these field studies he traveled by boat all the major streams of eastern Oklahoma during the summers of 1910-1912. Some of this time his family was camping with him along the river bank.

The demand for college administrators following the First World War, coupled with the need for increased salary, induced Isely to take up administrative work in 1920. For this he was exceptionally well equipped by disposition and temperament. For eleven years he served as a college dean. These were nearly barren years as far as publication was concerned. In 1931 he became Professor of Biology at Trinity University and, freed from administrative duties (though nearing 60), at once devoted his free time to investigation and publication. Among the important achievements coming from this series of studies was the clear experimental demonstration that many orthoptera (grasshoppers) have highly specific food habits. Incidental to major investigations, but creating a great deal of discussion at the time of publication, was the experimental demonstration of the advantage of concealing coloration in protecting grasshoppers from predation by birds.

Gordon Alexander observed: "That such a research program was carried out in a college where every instructor had a heavy teaching load, and Professor Isely was the only teacher of biology during most of these years, suggests a remarkable achievement. It is fortunate that recognition by both the National Research Council and the American Philosophical Society provided the necessary financial support, but the success of the program was certainly due primarily to a dominating curiosity about nature and a remarkable innate faculty for research."

S.W. Geiser writing for the American Society of Zoologists states that "His kindliness, sympathy, and enthusiasm made Isely an ideal teacher." Further evidence of his qualities as a teacher may be found in the following dedication by students at Texas Women's College: "Because he insists on the truth wherever it is found, whether in flower, bird, or human conduct; because he has through the four years he has been here, challenged our intellects, our ambitions and our ideals to their best and highest expression, thus proving himself to be not only a scientist, but also a builder of Christian character; we the senior class of 1926, dedicate this issue of the TEXWOCO to Frederick B. Isely, Professor of Biology and Dean of the College."

The Trinity Alumni Magazine also recognized his wife, Mary: "By his side and always helping and encouraging him in his work, has stood Mrs. Isely. She has a genuine love of nature and a sympathetic understanding of young people and their problems."

In 1946 he reached the age of retirement and, upon recommendation of the Faculty of Trinity University, and in recognition of his service and scholarship, the degree of Doctor of Science was conferred upon him. However, at age 73 his years of teaching were still not over. To meet the post World War II enrollment crisis he was asked to continue teaching for the 1946-1947 year. He died in December 1947, still actively involved in scientific research.

Fred and Mary's oldest child, Marion, married Fred's student and fellow biologist, Gordon Alexander. Here is a link to Gordon and Marion's biography and information about their research on Orthoptera maintained by the University of Colorado where Gordon was a faculty member.

Here are photos of Fred.

Click here for larger version.

Caption on back, "Fred B. Isely". Studio is Chase of Hiawatha, Kansas.

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