Oswald Heer

Oswald Heer ( born August 31, 1809 in Niederuzwil, † September 27, 1883 in Lausanne, home justified in Glarus ) was a Swiss paleontologist, botanist and entomologist. Its official botanical author abbreviation is " army ".

Life and work

Army, in a still existing wooden house in st. Gallic Untertoggenburg born, grew up as the son of a preacher from the age of two in Glarus and went to Matt in Sernftal with his parents in 1817. There he was able to pursue his interest in nature, collected plants and insects, climbed through the mountains of Glarus and led at an early age diary of the weather conditions of the Sernftales.

In the fall of 1828, he enrolled at the University of Halle, to the family tradition of studying true theology. In addition to theological studies, he attended scientific lectures about the renowned entomologist Ernst Friedrich Germar, at Christian Ludwig Nitzsch (Zoology ) and Kurt Sprengel ( Botany). In Hall had contacts with army also scientifically interested fellow students as the later explorers Java, Franz Jung chicken and with the Hungarian mycologist Charles Kalchbrenner ( 1807-1886 ).

In the spring of 1831 army returned back to Switzerland, put in St. Gallen theological exam and returned as " verbi divini magister " - as a selectable for each reformed parish priest in the service of the Divine Word - by Matt back.

In the following years explored army to mainly study the entire Swiss and Tyrolean Alps bordering the plant and insect world. As a mountaineer, he has climbed it not only the high peaks of the Glarus region up to the Glärnisch and high floor many times, but has received for his first ascents in the Alps story. The Piz Linard, with 3,413 m the highest mountain in the Silvretta was born on August 1, 1835 for the first time conquered by him, the Piz Palu in Bernina ( 3,912 m ), he ascended on August 12, 1835, together with Gian Marchet Colani.

After he had received in 1832 as curator commissioned to organize the rich insect collection of the Zurich purchase Mr. Heinrich Escher Zollikofer ( 1776-1853 ), he got in touch with local naturalists and decided to pursue a career in science. In 1834 he habilitated at the University of Zurich was founded a year earlier, was Associate Professor of Botany and Director of the Botanical Garden Zurich. In 1835 he was appointed extraordinary professor of botany and entomology, 1852, he advanced to full professor. Since 1855 he was professor of taxonomic botany at the Polytechnic of Zurich ( the predecessor of the ETH). In 1882 he retired from his university teaching activities.

In his lectures he treated special botany, pharmaceutical and economic botany, and later the plants of the ancient world ( paleobotany ). There were colleges on entomology, special natural history of beetles and insects of former ages.

Extremely popular were his multi-day botanical excursions in the Alps, the army from 1855 to 1870 mostly undertook together with the geologist Arnold Escher von der Linth. These he distributed to his students a separately printed booklet with self -sealed, humorous lyrics to the then-known song melodies. In it the ' homo botanicus ' with the bee is compared; because both aspire to the colored flowers all around, only the botanist is this walking very thirsty and longing - especially in rainy excursions - for a drink on the hops or the fine, pressed from the grape vine juice.

Heer is considered one of the founders of Paleontology of the Tertiary flora and fauna and the plant geography of the Alps. He was in contact with various famous scientists, including Charles Darwin, the person shall presently give him his controversial book " The Origin of Species " with a handwritten dedication. This specimen is preserved and contains numerous critical asides. Darwin's theory of evolution army rejected. The studied theologian believed in a reshaping of the species by the hand of a Creator.

Army had numerous students, among other things, the botanist Carl Wilhelm von Naegeli, Johannes Theodor Schmalhausen (1849-1894) and Carl Schroeter.

1850-1868 he was a member of the Zurich Cantonal. In addition to his position as professor of both universities, he served as Director of the Botanical Gardens in Zurich. In 1877 he was honored by the Royal Society with the Royal Medal. Host - country on Spitsbergen was named after him.


The first major botanical work of the Army was his dissertation, which he wrote at the age of about 25 years and was the vegetation of the southeastern canton of Glarus. This work was the first phytogeographical monograph from the area of the Swiss Alps.

In the " The insect fauna of the Tertärgebilde Oeningen and Radoboy " he described 464 fossil insects previously were just 100 have been released. With the three-volume "Flora tertiaria Helvetiae " in which he performed 720 previously unknown fossil plants in Swiss territory, he established his reputation as palaeobotanist far beyond Switzerland His main work is the seven-volume. "Flora fossilis arctica - The fossil flora of the polar regions ". in the book " the Switzerland of the primeval world ", first established in 1865, Army laid the geological past of the country generally understood dar. This work was widespread in Switzerland, today we would call it a scientific popular literature.