An entomologist of international reputation, Stephen A. Forbes served in the 7th Ill. Cav. during the Civil War, attaining the rank of captain. In 1877, he established the Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History, later the Illinois Natural History Survey, which he directed until his death in 1930. In 1884, the laboratory moved to the campus of the University of Illinois where Forbes served successively as Professor of Zoology and Entomology, as well as Dean of the College of Science, 1885-1905. He received the rank of emeritus professor in 1921.
This collection includes diaries, letterbooks, and papers relating to Forbes' service in the Union Army during the Civil War and to his participation in Grierson's Raid. Other letters pertain to family matters, including memorials and obituaries, in addition to papers pertaining to Forbes' academic and scientific career.
Original letters and papers were donated to the Illinois Historical Survey by Bertha Forbes Herring, in 1958, and by Richard M. Forbes, in 1966. Ethel Forbes Scott donated the microfilm, containing transcriptions of family letters and journals, to the Survey in 1968.