Wasmann, Erich

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Jesuit entomologist and philosopher of science; b. May 29, 1859, Meran, Austria; d. Valkenburg, Holland, Feb. 27, 1931. He was the son of an artist, and was raised in the Tyrolese Alps. Wasmann early showed intense interest in nature. His early training was in public and Catholic schools, and in the Jesuit college at Feldkirch. Not until the early 1890s, however, as a Jesuit priest, did he receive his graduate training in zoology at the universities of Vienna and Prague. The University of Freiburg awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1921.

In 1875, he joined the Jesuits at Exaten, Holland. Thenceforth, he devoted his entire life to writing, lecturing, research, and religious duties. He was a pioneer in symphilology, the involved ecology of termites and ants. His theistically oriented psychology and evolution were well developed and militantly expressed. He saw inter-specific mutualism, harmony, and evolution as manifestations of teleology. More than 100 lectures (especially from 1910 to 1921) and about 750 publications bespeak his physical and intellectual activity, despite his delicate health. Most of his lectures were delivered to scholars at

Swiss, German, and Austrian universities, but his famous Berlin series, written in counteraction to Haeckel's atheistic evolution and monism, were given before great public throngs (1907).

Wasmann's entomological papers, which included bionomics, systematics, mimicry, symphilology, and psychology, were well received by his scientific colleagues. On his 70th birthday an entire issue of the foremost zoological journal in Germany was dedicated to him. Two of his most famous books are Comparative Studies in the Psychology of Ants and of Higher Animals (St. Louis 1905) and The Berlin Discussions of the Problem of Evolution (St. Louis 1912).

Bibliography: c. j. wideman, "Erich Wasmann, S.J.," The Wasmann Collector 5.2 (1942) 4146.

[l. p. coonen]