Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Oliver Flint

Curator Emeritus of Neuropteroids

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I write to tell you that our dear colleague and friend Oliver "Ollie" S. Flint, Jr., Emeritus Curator of Neuropteroids in the Department of Entomology, passed away at age 87 on Saturday, May 18th. Ollie was a passionate and energetic presence in our museum community for almost 60 years and was active in the collection until very recently. His constant smile and devotion to his work and our museum’s mission will be sorely missed.

Ollie grew up in Amherst, MA just down the street from renowned crane fly expert C.P. Alexander, who became his mentor in all things entomological. Ollie received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts before earning his Ph.D. in Entomology from Cornell University in 1960. He joined the NMNH Department of Entomology in 1961 as Curator of Neuropteroids, serving in this role for 35 years before becoming an Emeritus Curator in 1996. During his long career in the museum, Ollie curated a number of aquatic insect orders including Trichoptera (caddisflies), Megaloptera (fishflies), Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), and Odonata (dragonflies) as well as Neuroptera (lacewings), Mecoptera (scorpionflies), and Raphidioptera (snakeflies) – a collection of more than 12,000 species and almost 400,000 specimens. Ollie was a knowledgeable and dedicated curator for these groups, with our important dragonfly collection notably becoming the best curated group within all of Entomology.

Ollie authored more than 230 papers and books on aquatic insects. This remarkable scientific output spanned almost 70 years; his first paper was in 1951 and publications are in press. The majority of his research output focused on the systematics of Neotropical caddisflies, a group for which he was a world-recognized authority. Ollie described more than 1,200 species, 21 genera, and one family of caddisflies during his career. Ralph Holzenthal (University of Minnesota) relates that his own dissertation research and those of nine of his PhD students depended almost entirely on specimens collected by Ollie. His and his wife Carol’s generosity in helping students and hosting visiting researchers was unlimited. Ollie loved fieldwork as probably only few people do, and his collecting and research resulted in the most comprehensive and best curated caddisfly collection in the world, particularly for Neotropical species. He also collected and deposited specimens of at least 13 other insect orders throughout the world, including Antarctica, adding more than 26,000 specimens of dragonflies and damselflies to the USNM collection as well as untold thousands of caddisflies. His local field work in collaboration with retired USDA scientist David Smith involved intensive malaise trapping that resulted in numerous new state records for several insect groups. More generally, Ollie was an avid hiker and an expert on the natural history and entomology of the greater Washington, DC area. Throughout his career, Ollie held key positions and received significant honors from organizations including the Entomological Society of America, the North American Benthological Society, and the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation (another local organization, like ours, particularly dear to his heart). Ollie was honored for his expertise in caddisflies at the 12th International Symposium on Trichoptera in 2006 in Mexico City, as can be seen on the “greater than life size mural” hanging on the 6th floor of the East Court opposite his office.  Three genera and more than 60 species from six insect orders have been named in Ollie's honor to recognize his extensive contributions to the field.

Please join me in expressing our deepest sympathies to Ollie’s wife Carol, his daughters Cathy, Lisa, and Maria, and their mother Ruth. A service celebrating Ollie’s life will be held at Christ Church in Alexandria, VA (118 N. Washington St., main entry at N Columbus St. and Cameron St.) at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 15th with a reception to follow.

We will celebrate Ollie's life and career here at the museum as well at a time later this year.

 

Department / Division
Education
  • BS MS Univ. Massachusetts 
  • PhD Cornell
Research Interests

Taxonomy and biology of the Trichoptera and Megaloidea of the New World