The collection was begun in the 1920s by G.J. Spencer. When he joined the university in 1924, the now-extensive collection consisted of “less than a handful” of unlabelled specimens. He was a dedicated collector, and devoted much time and energy to building up a representative collection of BC insects. By the time he left the university, the collection had grown to more than 300,000 mounted and labelled specimens through his collecting and through acquisition of other collections. The collection was officially founded in 1953, as a retirement gift from his students and the Department of Zoology at UBC.
Dr. G.G.E. Scudder took over care of the collection from Dr. Spencer in 1958 and served as its director for more than 40 years. Over the years more private collections have been incorporated, specimens have been collected by researchers, and the collection has grown to its present size of more than 600,000 specimens, the second largest entomological collection in western Canada.
George Spencer (1888-1966) was born in southern India. He became interested in insects and snakes at a very young age, and expanded that interest during his undergraduate and graduate education, which he received at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph and the University of Illinois, respectively. In between his undergraduate degree and his MSc, he served overseas during World War I.
After completing his Masters, he joined the University of British Columbia in 1924. He played a major role in founding the UBC Zoology department, where he taught general zoology, histology, and entomology. He was an inspired teacher. He was also an avid collector, and he founded the UBC Entomological Collection immediately upon joining the university. The BC southern interior was his favorite collection locality, and he collected widely and often, as shown by the great variety of new insects he described.
Dr. Spencer also took an interest in public outreach, and he enjoyed helping the public with their insect pest problems (even their imaginary ones!). His own research was focused on applied entomology, with projects on ants, earwigs, carpet beetles, stored-product insects, and household and garden pests of the Vancouver area.