Ernest Melville DuPorte: Entomologist Extraordinaire

Macdonald College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec. © Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no.3348447

For the week of Monday, October 22, 2018.

On October 24, 1891, Ernest Melville DuPorte, an entomologist best-known for his research in insect morphology, was born on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies. 

Excelling in his early schooling, DuPorte earned a scholarship from the St. Kitts-Nevis Legislative Council to study abroad in 1910. While he could have attended the University of London, he chose Macdonald College of McGill University instead. Since 1909, it had offered the only specialized university program in entomology in Quebec. DuPorte obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1913 and, a year later, earned the first Master of Science in entomology ever granted by the college.

Completing his doctorate in 1921, DuPorte was the first African Canadian to teach at McGill and a founding member of its Department of Entomology. He was persevering, overcoming racial discrimination to become internationally recognized for his significant contributions to academia. In 1926, DuPorte led an experimental interdepartmental committee on animal parasite research, overseeing biological research that included studies of how ticks transport disease. In 1929, he became chair of the McGill Committee for Biological Research on Animal Sciences.

As chair, he played a vital role in establishing the Institute of Parasitology at Macdonald College, with funding from the National Research Council of Canada and the Empire Marketing Board, which promoted trade and scientific research within the British Empire. Officially opened in 1934, the institute worked closely with many organizations around the world to discover the effects of parasites on agriculture, placing Canada at the forefront of parasitological research.

By the time of his retirement in 1957, DuPorte had “taught more than half the practicing entomologists in Canada,” according to the Montréal Gazette. Two years later, he published his Manual of Insect Morphology, which remains a preeminent work in entomology. With several awards and scholarships in his name in Europe and the United States, DuPorte’s legacy is internationally recognized.

Ernest Melville DuPorte is a designated national historic person. The Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) advises the Government of Canada on the commemoration of National Historic Persons—individuals who have made unique and enduring contributions to the history of Canada.

The National Program of Historical Commemoration relies on the participation of Canadians in the identification of places, events and persons of national historic significance. Any member of the public can nominate a topic for consideration by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Information on how to participate in this process is available here:

February is Black History Month. Learn more about African-Canadian histories by exploring our online archives about R. Nathaniel Dett, Carrie Best, Ernest Melville DuPorte, William Hall, George Dixon, and the Experiences of Black Loyalists, among others, and check out entries about No 2 Construction Battalion, C.E.F., Kathleen ‘Kay’ Livingstone, and the Black Pioneers in British Columbia in the Directory of Federal Heritage Designations