The first traces of a Hungarian beetle collection are found in a catalogue dated 1821 which mentioned 158 specimens. This material, however, seems to have been lost forever.

The first entomologist of the Museum was Imre (Emerich) Frivaldszky, who was appointed Keeper of the Natural History Collections in 1822. He was a physician who collected beetles and other "naturalia" from his childhood on. His collecting activity was extended beyond the Carpathian Basin, toward the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor and Crete to where he led expeditions or sent collectors on his own account. In 1864 he purchased the collection of Georg Dahl consisting of 6000, mainly Hungarian and Austrian specimens. The majority of this collection was destroyed by the flood in 1838; however, the few remaining specimens are the oldest existing beetle specimens in our collection. In 1851, when Imre Frivaldszky retired, the collection consisted of 10,000 specimens representing 3500 species. However, he kept an important private collection as well which was three times greater that that of the Museum – a peculiar activity which is impossible to do today, because a special Act prohibits staff members of the Museum from keeping private collections.

He was followed by his nephew, János (John) Frivaldszky, who had no high educational standing but acquired all the knowledge he needeed from his uncle's library. During the 44 years he served the Museum the collection increased to about 120,000 specimens of some 18,000 species. The 1850s was the first time when small exotic materials were given to the collection. The first really important exotic material was sent back to Hungary by János (John) Xantus in 1862 from the Americas which was later followed by a remarkable collection from Eastern Asia until 1870. Another important achievement was the purchase of Imre Frivaldszky's private collection which was full of type specimens of himself and other European authors. János Frivaldszky and his staff travelled all over the mountains of the Carpathian Basin, the coast of Croatian and the Velebit Mountains always bringing back valuable material with them. The collection increased by a number of donations, exchanges and purchases from private entomologists.

After the death of János Frivaldszky in 1895, Keeper of the Coleoptera Collection was Dezső (Desiderius) Kuthy for two years. He never went for quantity but hunted for rarities with his special collecting methods and captured a number of species new to the Carpathian Basin mainly around Budapest, in the Great Hungarian Plain and the Arad county. He was the author of the Coleoptera volume of the Fauna Regni Hungariae, a first comprehensive list of the beetles of the Carpathian Basin.

Between 1897 and 1932 the Keeper of the Collection was Ernő (Ernst) Csiki, a real and born coleopterist, who, in contrast with his predecessors, had no business with other departments than his own, the Coleoptera Collection. During that period he enhanced the collection with overwhelming material, as regards both quality and quantity. The larger and more copious financial endowment of the Department of Zoology, and special subsidies, rendered possible extensive collecting trips and purchases of collections. Collectings were made in almost every corner of the Carpathian Basin and in various exotic countries such as Southern Russia, Siberia, Mongolia, China and first of all, to New Guinea, where Lajos (Louis) Bíró spent six years (1896–1902) with collecting ethnological and zoological material, with an emphasis on "Microcoleoptera". Important materials were collected in East Africa by Kálmán Kittenberger, in Abyssinia by Ödön (Edmund) Kovács, in Turkestan by György (George) Almásy and so on. The most remarkable collection purchased by Ernő Csiki is the immense Palearctic collection of Edmund Reitter, which arrived at the museum in 1916 (see “The most remarkable parts of the Collection”). At the time of Ernő Csiki's retirement (1932) the beetle collection run over 1 million specimens. In 1933 Wilmos (William) Székessy was appointed Curator of the Coleoptera Collection. He received his degree from the University of Vienna, and attained his entomological and museological knowledge from Karl Holdhaus in the Museum of Vienna. Between 1945 and 1960 he was Director of the Department of Zoology and from 1960 he served as General Director of the Museum. In the first period he dealt with systematic and zoogeographical research as well as taxonomy of Staphylinoidea but later his interest turned on to Strepsiptera. Together with Zoltán Kaszab, he started to put order methodically in the Collection, which at that time consisted of a number of independent collections stored in unsafe, original boxes of poor quality. They dismantled the separate collections, transferred the specimens to safely shutting drawers and united the whole material in the systematic order of families. As a result of ten years' work, every species belonging to the same family could be found in the same place.

In 1937, Zoltán Kaszab was put on the staff of the Coleoptera Collection. He can be regarded as the most outstanding figure of the Hungarian coleopterology. During his service (1937–1986) the collection increased from 1,2 million to 3 million and it stands now in the first line of the greatest European collections today. This was achieved by extensive collectings in Hungary as well as in various exotic countries. To mention without demand of completeness, important materials were brought back from New Guinea by János Balogh, from Australia by György Hangay, from several South American countries by a soil-zoological expedition, from Ghana and Congo by Sebestyén (Sebastian) Endrődy-Younga, from Argentina, India and Vietnam by György Topál, from North Korea by a series of zoological expeditions and so on. The most remarkable material, however, came from Mongolia.

Zoltán Kaszab won the recognition of the scientific community mainly through his six expeditions to Mongolia (1963–1968) and the processing the material collected in that country. He brought back about half million animal specimens, including 200,000 beetles. The results were published in scientific journals in a series ("Ergebnisse der zoologischen Forschungen von Dr. Z. Kaszab in der Mongolei"), which comprised over 500 papers. There are 200 scientists among the authors, from 20 countries. The number of printed pages is nearly 8000. Of the tens of thousands of animal species reported from Mongolia, 1600 were formerly unknown to the scientific world and 1900 species which had been known from other parts of Central Asia previously, had for the first time been found in Mongolia by Zoltán Kaszab. As an expert of Tenebrionidae and Meloidae, he built up a world-renowned collection of the families (see under “The most remarkable parts of the Collection”).

After retirement of Zoltán Kaszab (1985), Ottó Merkl took over the management of the Coleoptera Collection. His museological activity is governed largely by the strategy founded by Zoltán Kaszab. The extensive period of developing the collection is over, as for at least the Hungarian fauna is concerned; however, an increasing number of expeditions mainly to Southeast Asia bring back considerable beetle materials. Processing, identification and writing up of these materials as well as those collected by the expeditions in the 1960s and 1970s is a challenge of the present years. It is made possible by the long-term contact with a number of coleopterological institutes and private coleopterists all over the world. Another great task is organization and accomplishment of coleopterological assessment of the Hungarian national parks and other protected areas.

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