Nabokov the Artist

Reproduced by permission of the V. Nabokov Estate/the Henry A. & Albert W. Berg Collection, New York Public Lib. One of Vladimir Nabokov's drawings of the undersurfaces of butterfly wings.

Reproduced by permission of the V. Nabokov Estate/the Henry A. & Albert W. Berg Collection, New York Public Lib.
One of Vladimir Nabokov’s drawings of the undersurfaces of butterfly wings.

Vladimir Nabokov’s influence on Russian and English literature and language is assured. Many people also know of the novelist’s lifelong passion for butterflies. But his notable contributions to the science of lepidopterology and to general biology are only beginning to be widely known.

Nabokov was no amateur entomologist. He served for six years as curator of the butterfly collection at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and published a dozen papers on taxonomy — the description and classification of organisms — that remain important. His observations on butterfly morphology have stimulated breakthrough research in evolutionary biology. Several of his original biogeographic hypotheses have been confirmed in the past few years. Fine Lines, a collection edited by Stephen Blackwell and Kurt Johnson, explains the importance of Nabokov’s scientific work and traces its influence on his novels.

Read the rest of Nabokov’s Scientific Artistry in the current issue of Nature.

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