The Incomparable Observer
[by Earl Blacklock] From his childhood, Jean Henri Casimir Fabre was a gifted self-taught observer of nature whose extensive research and writings on insect and arachnid anatomy and behavior set the highest standard for scientific inquiry. Fabre won a scholarship to a school for teachers, where he taught himself Latin and Greek. While studying a text on entomology, he discovered an error. The book said that the hunting wasp kills beetles before feeding them to its larvae. Through careful observation, Fabre saw that the wasp instead paralyzes its prey, delivering them to its young still alive. From that observation, Fabre learned the principle that in science, all authority must be questioned. A teacher of biology at a high school for boys in Avignon, Fabre devoted his free time to the study of insects and arachnids. He would spend hours after school studying and recording the drama of the lives of creatures that lived nearby, from the way they would signal their presence to how they killed their prey.