Heinrich, Bernd 1940–

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Heinrich, Bernd 1940–

PERSONAL: Born April 19, 1940, in Bad Polzin, Germany; came to the United States, 1950; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1958; son of Gerd Hermann and Hildegard Maria (Bury) Heinrich; married wife, Margaret, 1968; marriage ended; remarried; children: two, including son Eliot. Education: University of Maine, B.A., 1964, M.S., 1966; University of California, Los Angeles, Ph.D., 1970. Hobbies and other interests: Ultra-marathons and other forms of long-distance running.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Zoology, 120A Marsh Life Science Building, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Biologist, educator, and writer. University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1971–75, professor of entomology, 1978–81; University of Vermont, Burlington, professor of zoology, 1981–2003, professor emeritus, 2004–.

MEMBER: American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), American Society of Zoologists, Ecological Society of America, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Ornithological Union.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Science Foundation grant, 1971; Guggenheim fellowship, 1976–77; American Book Award nomination, 1980, for Bumblebee Economics; L.L. Winship Award Book Award, 1984, for In a Patch of Fireweed; von Humboldt fellowship, 1988–89; Burroughs Writing Award, 1991, for An Owl in the House; Lady Davis fellowship, Israel, 1992; Rutstrom Authorship Award for Conservation and Environmental Writing, 1996, for A Year in the Maine Woods; Maine Running Hall of Fame, 1996; Franklin Fairbanks Award for contributions to Vermont culture, 1997; New England Bookseller's Award for Nonfiction, 1998; Maine Sportsmen's Hall of Fame, 2000; John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, 2000, for Mind of the Raven. Honorary doctorates from Unity College, 1986 and 2000, and from the University of Maine, Farmington, 1999.


Bumblebee Economics, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1979, reprinted with a new preface, 2004.

(Editor) Insect Thermoregulation, Wiley (New York, NY), 1981.

In a Patch of Fireweed, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1984.

One Man's Owl, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1987.

Ravens in Winter, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1989.

An Owl in the House: A Naturalist's Diary (juvenile; adapted from One Man's Owl by Alice Calaprice), Joy Street Books (Boston, MA), 1990.

The Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Thermoregulation, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.

A Year in the Maine Woods, Addison Wesley (Reading, MA), 1994.

The Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

The Trees in My Forest, Cliff Street Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, Cliff Street Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us about Running and Life, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001, published as Why We Run: A Natural History, Ecco (New York, NY), 2002.

Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, Ecco/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

The Geese of Beaver Bog, Ecco (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of numerous book chapters and articles to journals in the fields of ornithology, zoology, entomology, and ecology and to popular periodicals, including Science.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A memoir titled The Snoring Bird and sequel to Winter World titled Summer World.

SIDELIGHTS: Bernd Heinrich is a field biologist who has conducted pioneering research into insect thermoregulation and who has undertaken extensive experiments on raven behavior in a period spanning more than two decades. From his base on his 300-acre primitive farm in the Maine woods, Heinrich has devised and conducted experiments on bird and insect behavior, experiments that then take him as far afield as Alaska and Africa. Heinrich's curiosity about living organisms began early in life. Born in Germany, he was the son of a noted European naturalist who collected specimens for natural history museums. The Heinrich family fled an estate in Poland as the Russians advanced during World War II, settling near a nature preserve in Germany, where they lived for a time in a cow shed. For the next five years the young Heinrich and his parents lived almost totally off the land, earning a little spending money by brewing moonshine. Heinrich and his family later moved to a decrepit farm in Maine, where he continued his fascination with nature.

Heinrich's first book, 1979's Bumblebee Economics, was nominated for the American Book Award in science. The book stands out among the small number of works devoted entirely to bumblebee life and social economy, according to New York Times Book Review critic Caryl P. Haskins. Haskins remarked: "It is a merit of this remarkable new book that it treats the subject of bumblebee life, at both individual and social levels, in an unusual and particularly modern way."

Energy economics is a major factor in Heinrich's discussion: "At the colony level, the pollen and sugar [obtained by bumblebees from flowers during foraging] are the resources used to produce the machinery—combs and new workers—that will in turn use similar resources to produce drones and new queens, the factory's product," Heinrich wrote. "In this context," Haskins explained, "bumblebee colonies can be regarded as complex, well-ordered mechanisms for maximizing output as defined by the number of young reproductives produced at the close of colony life."

A major facet of Bumblebee Economics is its exploration of the manner in which bumblebees generate and distribute heat as specific parts of their bodies require it, then dispel it without wasting it. Heinrich demonstrates that bumblebees are not cold-blooded animals, as is commonly thought. The bees' adaptation to cooler climates makes them unusual: "Typically, bumblebees work longer and colder hours than honeybees, foraging at chilly dawn and into deepening twilight, while temperatures and failing light keep honeybees at home or quickly immobilize those enterprising individuals that may venture out," Haskins noted. Heinrich discusses how the bumblebees maintain body temperatures well above those of the environment, offering other insights into the way the bees regulate their body temperatures for greatest efficiency. Thermoregulation is a subject in which "Professor Heinrich contributes much original scholarship …," observed Haskins, "and his treatment of this subject is fascinating." Natural History reviewer H.E. Evans applauded the energy Heinrich brought to his study: "The author is not satisfied with generalities, but consistently provides an abundance of facts and figures derived from careful measurements and various forms of 'electronic eavesdropping.' Yet none of this intrudes upon a style that is invariably lively and lucid." Evans was impressed with Bumblebee Economics: "It is not true that science strips away the beauty of nature; it illumines it and deepens its impact."

The author followed this pioneering study with other similar works, including The Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Thermoregulation and The Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival. In a Discover magazine review of The Thermal Warriors, Steven Vogel described Heinrich as "a graceful and effective writer," adding: "[Heinrich's] concern isn't just with who eats whom, who lives where, and how mating is managed. Instead he focuses on a world as much physical as biological, where problems are not so apparent and their solutions still less so." Bio-Science contributor Syd Radinovsky noted of The Hot-Blooded Insects: "In his easily read, self-illustrated book, Heinrich shows how far the science of insect thermal physiology has come since a small thermometer was first placed against the body of an insect more than a century ago." In a Science magazine review, Albert F. Bennett concluded that Hot-Blooded Insects "is destined to become the definitive text on insect thermoregulation: there is no competition, and it is so comprehensive and thoughtful that it is doubtful that any successor will soon be forthcoming."

Beginning in 1984, Heinrich expanded his sphere of interest to include raven behavior. The author had kept pet ravens since his college days, but he began to lure wild ravens onto his Maine property—using carcasses of dead animals—in order to study the birds' social habits. Heinrich has estimated that he has spent many thousands of hours sitting alone in frigid winter weather, either observing or waiting to observe ravens. His thoughts and conclusions have been published in Ravens in Winter and Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds.

The chief behavioral traits Heinrich has searched for in ravens are altruism and problem-solving—he has documented cases where ravens cooperated with strange ravens and where the birds used tools to solve problems. What he has been trying to determine—and continues to investigate—is whether the ravens learn such behavior from observing other birds, or whether they are able to "think." In a New York Times Book Review piece on Ravens in Winter, Meredith J. West observed that, in this book, "besides learning to cope with the on-again, off-again pace of discovery, we must learn to keep up with an indefatigable investigator. When Mr. Heinrich is not scouring the countryside or highways for dead moose or goats to use as bait in his experiments, he is walking, crawling, climbing or falling through ice and snow, always managing to land sunny side up. Under physical conditions in which most people would be content to curl up and die, he tells us he has gone to heaven." Summarizing the book's conclusions, West commented: "When all is said and done, Mr. Heinrich succeeds in detailing the characteristics of an enigmatic bird. His picture of ravens contrasts sharply with that afforded by folklore, but it is no less memorable." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly reviewer characterized Mind of the Raven as "a book that demonstrates the rewards of caring and careful observation of the natural world." The reviewer went on to call Heinrich's observations as "formidably precise," noting also that the author's writing brims with "infectious enthusiasm." George Cohen, writing in Booklist, deemed Mind of the Raven "not a scholarly work but rather a fond tribute to these feathered creatures."

In addition to his scientific work, Heinrich has published a wide-ranging autobiography, In a Patch of Fireweed, and several other volumes of naturalist essays for the general reader. One of these, A Year in the Maine Woods, reveals details of his life in a log cabin "laboratory" that lacks electricity, plumbing, and running water. Robert Wulbert, writing in Booklist, noted that the author's various accounts "rouse in us a sense of wonder and a desire to be there." In another book The Trees in My Forest, the author, as noted by a Publishers Weekly contributor, provides the reader with a "collection of observations, reflections and ecology lessons" about the forests at his home in Maine. Randy Dykhuis, writing in the Library Journal, commented that Heinrich "has the ability to engage the reader instantly."

Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us about Running and Life presents Heinrich's reflections on his own life as a running enthusiast in relation to his observations of running in animals. He delves into such scientific aspects of running as "the functions of bipedalism, muscle fiber types, cellular activity and heat regulation," as noted by a contributor to Publishers Weekly. The reviewer went on to write: "As inspiring as it is fascinating, this book should have wide appeal." David Schoonmaker, writing in American Scientist, commented that the author "mixes his academic, athletic and verbal skills synergistically to explore endurance in creatures ranging from the hawk moth to himself" and called the effort "part autobiography, part natural history, part lab notebook of experiments with his own body." The author's enthusiasm for running was also apparent in his next book Why We Run: A Natural History. A Science News contributor reviewing both running-related books wrote that Heinrich's "knowledge and writing abilities shine in these pages."

Heinrich takes on the ability of animals to cope with the harsh northeastern winters in his book Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival. From the molecular level on up to the morphologies of various animals, from frogs to flying squirrels to birds, "Heinrich relates each creature's method as a story, slowly revealing its canny, outrageous, or dumbfounding aspects—letting the reader sit back and marvel," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In a review in the Library Journal, William H. Wiese commented that the author provides "an inside glimpse at the workings of science and nature." Nancy Bent, writing in Booklist, noted that the book "will be sought out by fans of good nature writing."

The author turns his attention to geese who nest near his Maine home in The Geese on Beaver Bog. His interest in the geese began when he nurtured a goose from a few days old to adulthood. After freeing the bird, which he named Peep, at Beaver Bog, he followed its return with other geese and began to write about his observations of them. "Instead of explaining goose behavior (which he does only briefly, in an appendix), Heinrich aims to recreate the rhythms of bog life," noted Laurence A. Marschall in Natural History. In a review in Library Journal, Alvin Hutchinson commented that the book will "appeal to bird watchers and other amateur naturalists."

When asked about his writing, Henrich told CA: "I first got interested in writing from reading good writing and feeling the joy of it. I wanted to share my own experiences, preserve them, and pass them on. My process involves seeing the world through a filter of new experiences and revelations and looking for interesting tensions and contradictions and trying to make sense of them. The most surprising thing I have learned is that the writing process results in sometimes unexpected revelations. The hardest thing is almost always taking the first steps—which are a leap of faith. My favorite book is always the one I'm working on at the moment. It has to be. After that it is like comparing apples to oranges. Additionally, I have written for totally different audiences—children, scientific colleagues, and educated general public. There are different standards. My hope is that my books will inspire some people to see wonders and become better observers of the natural world."



Heinrich, Bernd, Bumblebee Economics, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1979.


American Scientist, January-February, 2002, David Schoonmaker, review of Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us about Running and Life, p. 87.

Atlantic, May, 1984, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of In a Patch of Fireweed, p. 122; October, 1989, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Ravens in Winter, p. 115.

BioScience, December, 1994, Syd Radinovsky, review of The Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Thermoregulation, p. 777.

Booklist, November 1, 1994, Roland Wulbert, review of A Year in the Maine Woods, p. 474; May 1, 1999, George Cohen, review of Mind of a Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds, p. 105; January 1, 2003, Nancy Bent, review of Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, p. 820; June 1, 2004, Nancy Bent, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog, p. 1681.

Discover, May, 1997, Steven Vogel, review of The Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival, p. 108.

Ecology, October, 1997, Catherine Loudon, review of The Thermal Warriors, p. 2271.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Winter World, p. 1674.

Library Journal, October 1, 1997, Randy Dykhuis, review of The Trees in My Forest, p. 116; May 1, 1999, Henry T. Armistead, review of Mind of a Raven, p. 105; January, 2003, William H. Wiese, review of Winter World, p. 150; June 1, 2004, Alvin Hutchinson, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog, p. 175.

Natural History, November, 1979, H.E. Evans, review of Bumblebee Economics; November, 2004, Laurence A. Marschall, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog, p. 53.

New York Times Book Review, September 2, 1979, Caryl P. Haskins, review of Bumblebee Economics; September 24, 1989, Meredith J. West, review of Ravens in Winter, p. 12.

Publishers Weekly, October 10, 1994, review of A Year in the Maine Woods, p. 59; September 8, 1997, review of The Trees in My Forest, p. 68; April 19, 1999, review of Mind of a Raven, p. 51; April 9, 2001, review of Racing the Antelope, p. 60; December 23, 2002, review of Winter World, p. 60; December 8, 2003, John F. Baker, "Naturalist Bernd Heinrich" p. 12; April 12, 2004, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog, p. 48.

Quarterly Review of Biology, September, 1998, Ward B. Watt, review of The Thermal Warriors, p. 361; December, 2004, Andrew E. McKechnie, review of Winter World, p. 433.

Saturday Evening Post, May-June, 1983, Richard Wolkimir, "Seeing Is Bee-Lieving," profile of author, p. 66.

Science, May 21, 1993, Albert F. Bennett, review of The Hot-Blooded Insects, p. 1155; February 7, 2003, review of Winter World, p. 829.

Science News, April 13, 2002, review of Racing the Antelope, p. 239; August 24, 2002, review of Why We Run: A Natural History, p. 127; October 16, 2004, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog, p. 255.

Smithsonian, November, 1997, Richard Wolkomir, "From Twigs to Ravens, Nothing Escapes the Notice of Bernd Heinrich," p. 94; February, 2000, review of Mind of a Raven, p. 150.


Bookslut, http://www.bookslut.com/ (November 30, 2005), Barbara J. King, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog.

Pop Matters, http://www.popmatters.com/ (November 30, 2005), Wesley Burnett, review of The Geese of Beaver Bog.

University of Vermont Web site, http://www.uvm.edu/ (November 30, 2005), faculty profile of author.

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