Sternburg, James G. (1938-1992) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Sternburg, James G. (1938-1992)

Historical Note:

James Gordon Sternburg (1919-2014) was a professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois from 1959-1988. Professor Sternburg made several important contributions to the study of insect physiology, insecticidal use and resistance, and mimicry.

James Sternburg was born in Chicago, Illinois, on February 22, 1919, to Paul Charles and Eva Schild Sternburg. He served in the United States Navy during World War II as an aerial photographer. After being discharged in 1945, Sternburg enrolled at the University of Illinois, where he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Entomology and Chemistry (1949), Master of Science degree in Entomology (1950), and Doctorate in Entomology and Physiology (1952). He joined the University of Illinois's Entomology Department as an assistant professor in 1954, he was full professorship from 1964 to 1988, and continued teaching as professor emeritus until 2006.

Professor Sternburg is recognized for his pioneering research on DDT. Working with fellow University of Illinois professor Clyde Kearns, Sternburg identified the enzyme DDT-dehydrochlorinase in pesticide-resistant houseflies. Because UI was using DDT to try to save campus elms, Sternburg studied and then was able to link the increased deaths of robins on the UI quad to the accumulation of DDT in the tissues of earth worms and other prey. He was thus one of the first people to recognize the adverse environmental effects of insecticidal overuse. Later, Professor Sternburg worked with fellow entomology professor Gilbert Waldbauer on insect mimicry (i.e. similarity in organisms within and between species).

Sternburg was an active conservationist and a talented nature photographer. Notably, Sternburg's photographs were featured in four Illinois Natural History field guides on silkmoths (2002), butterflies (2001), skipper butterflies (2006), and sphinx moths (2010).

Sternburg married Margaret Eileen Mayer (d. 1989) on November 27, 1954. They had three children, Ginny Elder, Thomas Sternburg, and Janet Sternburg.  James G. Sternburg died on April 11, 2014, in Urbana, Illinois.

This collection is organized into three series.  Series 1: Research-related Papers, 1938-1992, consists of James Sternburg's professional correspondence, research notes, grant applications, departmental newsletters, and conference papers, arranged alphabetically. Series 2: Course Materials, 1954-1987, includes James Sternburg's teaching materials, handouts, lecture notes, lab instructions, arranged by course number. Series 3: Publications, 1950-1984, contains journal articles and reviews authored and co-authored by James G. Sternburg, organized chronologically.


Obituary of James Gordon Sternburg, Champaign News-Gazette, April 13, 2014.

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