Bodenheimer, Fritz Simon

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Bodenheimer, Fritz Simon

(b. Cologne, Germany, 6 June 1897; d. London, England, 4 October 1959)

entomology, zoology, history of science.

The son of Max Yitshaq Bodenheimer and Rosa Dalberg, Bodenheimer studied zoology in Frankfurt and subsequently specialized in agricultural entomology. In 1921 he received his doctorate from the University of Bonn and in 1922 emigrated to Palestine, to become head of the department of entomology at the agricultural experiment station of the Jewish Agency. He moved to The Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1928; he was promoted to professor in 1931 and remained there until his retirement in 1953. Bodenheimer also served as adviser on applied entomology in Europe, the Near East, South Africa, and Australia.

Bodenheimer contributed significantly to knowledge of the Palestinian fauna, with emphasis on insects. At the time, his Animal Life in Palestine (1935) was the generally accepted survey of the subject, but his main interest was the ecological relations of animals, chiefly moles, insect pests, and parasitic insects. He correlated variations in dormancy and rhythms of development, and in the population of pests, parasites, and hosts, with a wide range of climatic and biotic environmental factors in the widely divergent climates of Palestine. In collaboration with many others, Bodenheimer studied particular adaptations to different habitats, and it was one of his major accomplishments that he stimulated the interest of so many. In animal ecology he was a pioneer of more than regional importance, giving particular attention to theoretical concepts. Bodenheimer’s special interest in citrus, the major crop of Israel, is reflected in his exhaustive Citrus Entomology in the Middle East (1951).

Beginning with his two-volume study Materialien zur Geschkhte der Entomologie (1928–1929), Bodenheimer showed great interest in the history of biology. His numerous studies emphasized early Hebrew works and the biology and biologists of the Near East. Major works in this field are Animal Life in Bible Lands (1949–1956) and History of Biology (1958). In all of these a very wide range of relevant source material is brought together, but the final version lacks lucidity and polish.

From 1947 Bodenheimer was increasingly active in organizations related to the history of science. From 1950 to 1953 he was vice-president, and from 1953 to 1956 president, of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences.


Bodenheimer’s writings include Materialien zur Geschichte der Entomologie bis Linné, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1928–1929); Die Schädlingsfauna Palästinas (Berlin, 1930); Animal Life in Palestine (Jerusalem, 1935); Animal Lifein Bible Lands, 2 vols. (Jerusalem, 1949–1956); Citrus Entomology in the Middle East (The Hague, 1951); Précis d’écologie animale (Paris, 1954); Animal Ecology To-day (The Hague, 1958); History of Biology (London, 1958); and his autobiography, A Biologist in Israel (Jerusalem, 1959), which includes a bibliography of 420 items.

Jacob Lorch