Alexander Graham Bell Fairchild (1906–1994) was an American entomologist, and a member of the Fairchild family, descendants of Thomas Fairchild of Stratford, Connecticut and one of two grandsons of the scientist and inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, whom he was named after.
Fairchild was born in 1906 in Washington, D.C. As most entomologists do, Fairchild began his lifelong love affair with nature collecting butterflies in the fields and forests where he lived. At the age of 15, as an avid butterfly collector, Fairchild was introduced to the intense, complex world of the American ("New World") tropical forests by his father, David Fairchild, the famous botanist and plant explorer. Young Fairchild was given a week in Juan Mina, a long canoe ride up from civilization on the Chagres River in Panama, in 1921. The experience hooked Fairchild on tropical America for good. After several more years travelling with his father on plant collecting expeditions, Fairchild realized he needed to focus on something likely to provide a paying job.
In 1932, during the Great Depression, Fairchild began working toward a Ph.D. in biology at Harvard. Encouraged by his faculty advisor, Professor Joseph Bequaert, Fairchild chose the Tabanidae, a family of insects known as "horse flies". Tabanids are worldwide, numerous, and taxonomically complex. Since some bite humans and thus carry disease, Fairchild realized they would allow him to spend his life studying nature in the tropics. His thesis, naturally, was on the Tabanidae of Panama.
Returning to Panama in 1938, Fairchild stayed for the next 32 years, doing research on biting insects and ticks, especially tabanids. He was a staff entomologist at the Instituto Conmemorativo Gorgas de Estudios de la Salud's Gorgas Memorial Laboratory, becoming Acting Director. The Gorgas Memorial Laboratory was funded both by Congress and the Republic of Panamá for research in entomology, epidemiology, and tropical medicine. During those years, Fairchild published scientific papers and books and promoted field work in Panama to anyone who would listen. In 1978, to honor his efforts, the Universidad de Panamá named its Invertebrate Museum after Fairchild.
Upon his retirement, Fairchild moved to Gainesville, Florida, where for the next 25 years, he continued to publish papers and advise graduate students and fellow scientists around the world. In retirement and without pay, he organized the collections of Neotropical Tabanidae at the University of Florida and later at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods. Fairchild received numerous honors during his life, including the American Entomological Society's Entomologist of the Year. Over 33 species of insects are named after him by other entomologists.
At the time of his death—in 1994 at the age of 88—he had published 138 papers in scientific journals regarding his research on entomological subjects.
- "Contributions to the knowledge of Diptera: a collection of articles on Diptera commemorating the life and work of Graham B. Fairchild." Memoirs on Entomology, International. 14:1-41. 1999.