Museum beetle expert to give TED talk

19 June 2013

One in 5 species on Earth are beetles. A similar percentage of the Natural History Museum's 70 million specimens are too. In charge of this incredible diversity is beetle expert Max Barclay, and he'll be revealing all in a talk at TEDxAlbertopolis at the Royal Albert Hall this September.

Max and his curation team manage one of the largest, oldest and most important beetle collections in the world.

There are an amazing 10 million beetle specimens in the collection, studied by scientists worldwide. With 12 years of Museum experience to draw on, Max certainly has an in-depth knowledge and will have plenty of fascinating beetle stories to reveal in his TEDx talk.

The annual TED conferences bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers. TED is devoted to 'ideas worth spreading' and presenters are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)! The talks are filmed and published online.


TEDxAlbertopolis, which is a celebration of the artistic and scientific cultures in the South Kensington community, is in the Royal Albert Hall and Max's talk is on 23 September 2013.

Max is the only speaker from the Natural History Museum. He comments on being selected, 'I am delighted to speak at TEDxAlbertopolis and reveal a glimpse into the vast scientific collections held behind the scenes, which have inspired artists, writers and explorers, and underpinned some of the world’s most important scientific concepts, including the theory of evolution.'

TEDx Talk topic

The subjects of the talk remains a secret until the day, but with more than 22,000 drawers of beautifully curated beetles dating back to the 1700s, including more than 250,000 different species and the life's work of thousands of scientists, Max won't be short of ideas.

Searching for new species

Max certainly could  talk about his travels searching for new beetle species. He has discovered many, and 50 have been named in his honour; the most recent, Ischalia barclayi, is a metallic blue cardinal beetle known only from a single male collected in 1964 on the forested foothills of Borneo's mount Kinabalu, the highest point in the Malay Archipelago.

Known only from a single specimen, this remarkable new species,  Ischalia barclayi, was named after

Known only from a single specimen, this remarkable new species,  Ischalia barclayi, was named after Max by Prof Daniel Young of the University of Wisconsin.

Max and his colleagues have just returned from tropical fieldwork in northern Borneo, so who knows what never-before-seen beetle species they may have in their luggage!

  • by Yvonne Da Silva
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