Parshley, H. M. (Howard Madison), 1884-1953

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Smith College, Professor, Zoology, 1917-1953. Harvard University, A.B., 1909; A.M., 1910; Sc. D., 1917. New England Conservatory of Music.

From the description of Howard Madison Parshley papers, 1913-1953. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 51214237

Howard Madison Parshley was a professor at Smith from 1917 until 1952, and the chairman of the Zoology Department for many years. His early specialization in entomology broadened to include studies of genetics, reproduction and human sexuality. At Smith he taught classes in general zoology, genetics/reproduction and entomology. His publications included books, reviews and more than 300 articles in scientific as well as nonscientific journals. His books include Science and Good Behavior, The Science of Human Reproduction, and A Survey of Biology. Parshley was recognized as an international authority on the Hemiptera-Heteroptera and was editor of the General Catalogue of the Hemiptera. Parshley wrote the screenplay and co-starred with Clarence Darrow, the well-known evolutionist of the Scopes trial, in the documentary film, "The Mystery of Life," which was filmed and released in 1931. His fellow faculty called him a "pioneer in the application of the scientific outlook to the behavior of man." A talented musician and music-lover, for decades he played the double bass in the Smith College Orchestra, in the Pioneer Valley Symphony and in the professional Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Born to a pianist and a Baptist minister in Hallowell, Maine in 1884, Parshley grew up in eastern New York. With a strong classical education from the Boston Latin School (1901-1905) he went on to study at Harvard University, achieving an A.B. (1909), an A.M. (1910) and an Sc.D (1917). Concurrent with these studies Parshley also attended the New England Conservatory of Music. He married Nancy Fredricson in 1910. From 1911 to 1914 he taught zoology at the University of Maine in Orono. The Parshley's son, Thomas Fredricson Parshley was born in 1912 and their daughter, Elsa Parshley Brown, Smith '35 was born in 1914.

In 1917, Parshley accepted a position at Smith as assistant professor of zoology. He soon became professor and later chairman of the Department. He began translating into English what is now called "The Feminist Bible," Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking and controversial Le Deuxieme Sexe, in November 1949. During his work, he suffered a minor heart attack in 1952. Shortly after the publication of his translation of The Second Sex, and the completion of his translation of a French zoology book on mammals, Parshley died of a second heart attack on May 19, 1953. Parshley's translation of de Beauvoir's The Second Sex is still in print and widely used by Women's Studies programs throughout the English-speaking world.

[Biographical note prepared in cooperation with Elsa Parshley Brown]

From the guide to the Howard Madison Parshley Papers RG 42., 1913-1953, (Smith College Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Howard Madison Parshley Papers RG 42., 1913-1953 Smith College Archives
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Parshley, H. M. (Howard Madison), 1884-1953. Howard Madison Parshley papers, 1913-1953. Smith College, Neilson Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908- person
associatedWith Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908-1986. person
associatedWith Cromwell, Adelaide M. person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Sanger, Margaret, 1879-1966 person
associatedWith Smith College corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1884

Death 1953-05-19



Ark ID: w6f26nfh

SNAC ID: 17148305