Last week co-founder of the FFON website, John Cooper received the letter below from the Amateur Entomologists’ Society (AES) bestowing upon him Honorary Life Membership of the AES.

I received a note from John’s wife, Margaret Cooper saying ‘This is a delightful honour, not only because John has been a member of the AES since 1954, when he was ten years of age, but because four generations of the Cooper family have had an association with the society and its luminaries. The AES was founded by Leonard Tesch, friend of Maxwell Knight, and (as an entry from John’s 1955 diary below shows) it was at an AES Exhibition that John first met Maxwell Knight in person.’

Here’s John’s letter of acceptance:

What a wonderful surprise! A letter (a proper one, in an envelope and stamped!), informing me that the Council of the Amateur Entomologists’ Society (AES) has conferred upon me Honorary Life Membership.

Thank you all very, very, much.

Margaret has encouraged me to put together a (rather lengthy!) letter explaining why I am so happy to be recognised in this way. The thought is that members of the AES Council might be interested in the history. In due course, you (the AES) can have some of the original material for the archives (if you have such).

The AES means a great deal to me. When my father returned to Britain in 1946 after the Second World War, he regaled me with stories of his time in India, Burma and Ceylon. He told me about large moths and other insects attracted to searchlights. He described time spent with his Indian troops and taught me some words in Urdu. He took me out on the Essex Marshes looking for newts and fish and we collected caterpillars that we reared to moths. These animals had to share the balcony of my parents’ top-floor flat with a washing line and sundry domestic items. In 1954 Dad learnt about the AES and both encouraged and helped me join. For many years we went together to the annual exhibitions.

Below is a scan of one of the early pages of my natural history diary in 1955. It refers to the AES Exhibition on Saturday 17thSeptember where, amongst other things, I attended a lecture by Maxwell Knight.

Attached are two slides from my Leonard Tesch Lecture in Bristol in 2013. The first of these includes a scan of my letter of “enrolment”. Some of the pictures are also on FFON:

Introductory lecture: Maxwell Knight the naturalist – Prof. John E Cooper – FFON. (

My 68 years of membership of the AES have brought me much happiness. I am sorry not to have contributed more directly but service on committees has not been easy because of our time living overseas.

We (the Coopers) enjoyed organising AES field meetings near Huntingdon in the 1980s; amongst the luminaries who attended these and came back home for tea were David Lonsdale, Henry Berman and Brian Gardiner. See two pictures, below.

I have also enjoyed contributing articles and letters to the Bulletin. Above all, however, the AES exhibitions have for decades been an integral and much-loved part of our (Cooper) life – and involved four generations, from my parents, Eric and Dorothy Cooper, to our grandchildren. It was at one of them (1957) that I first met Henry Berman, leading to a lifelong friendship with him and his wife that spanned the generations. The photo below, which you will recall, depicts this – three ages of Coopers with Henry in 2017.

It has also given me pleasure in recent years to be able to develop stronger links between my professional veterinary background and my life-long love of natural history; the establishment of a formal relationship between the AES and the VIS (Veterinary Invertebrate Society) is an example.

John E Cooper