Nabokov’s scientific artistry

From Nature:

ButterVladimir 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.

…The decision to open the book with the drawings is a masterstroke. They illustrate one of the most important aspects of Nabokov's creativity — his tremendous attention to details, described with scrupulous precision. In his novels, he seamlessly marshals minutiae — impressions, passing fancies, ideas — to create a universe strongly rooted in observation. The particular or apparently trivial was, for him, always worth probing. In his entomological studies, he analysed fine, nearly invisible, dots on the wings of New and Old World butterflies to hint at what may have happened on Earth millions of years ago.

More here.