Weider, Ben 1923-2008 (Benjamin Weider)

views updated

Weider, Ben 1923-2008 (Benjamin Weider)


See index for CA sketch: Born February 1, 1923, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; died October 17, 2008. Bodybuilder, contest promoter, health and fitness expert, business executive, publisher, historian, and author. Weider had two passions in life: the bodybuilding industry and the life and death of Napoleon Bonaparte. He followed the footprints of his brother, Joe, into the bodybuilding business shortly after World War II. In 1946 they launched the International Brotherhood of Body Builders to promote professional and amateur bodybuilding competitions around the world, and Weider retained the presidency of the brotherhood until his retirement in 2006. By focusing on the health and fitness aspects of the sport, Weider transformed demonstrations of strength from a carnival entertainment into a respectable athletic endeavor, which was accorded the designation of a provisional Olympic sport in 1998. The Weiders created the Mr. Olympia contest in 1965 (and the Ms. Olympia competition in 1980). They are credited with the discovery and importation of Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1968. Weider was also a successful business owner. He became the editor and publisher of Weider Athletic and Sports Publishers in his native Montreal in 1946, the president of Weider Sports Equipment Company in 1958, and the president and director of the Weider Institute of Physical Culture in 1960. Weider taught at the U.S. Sports Academy and lectured around the world. He also served on the National Advisory Council on Fitness and Amateur Sport in Canada and the UNESCO International Council of Sports and Physical Education. Weider wrote several books on bodybuilding, including Superpump! Hardcore Women's Bodybuilding (1986), Strength and Weight Training for Young Athletes (1994), and The Edge: Ben and Joe Weider's Guide to Ultimate Strength, Speed, and Stamina (2002).

There was also an entirely different side to the entrepreneur: his historical interest in Napoleon. Though he had no formal training in history, he devoted much time to the nineteenth-century French explorer and military leader, especially to the cause of his death. Weider's book The Murder of Napoleon (1982) was praised by some scholars and criticized by others, but it sold more than a million copies and was translated into dozens of languages. Another book, The Wars against Napoleon: Debunking the Myth of the Napoleonic Wars, was published in 2007. Weider was respected for his contributions to Canadian culture. He was decorated a member of the Order of Canada and received a Silver Jubilee Medal from Queen Elizabeth II of England in 2008.



Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd edition, Macmillan Reference USA (Detroit, MI), 2007.

Weider, Ben, Joe Weider, and Mike Steere, Brothers of Iron, Sports Publishing (Champaign, IL), 2006.


Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2008, p. B13.

New York Times, October 21, 2008, p. A23.