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Heim, Albert Arnold

Heim, Albert Arnold

(b. Zurich, Switzerland, 20 March 1882; d. Zurich, 27 May 1965)

geology, geography.

Heim was the son of Jacob Albert Heim and Maria Vögtlin. He studied geology with his father and received the Ph.D. from the University of Zurich in 1905. He lectured at the Technische Hochschule and University of Zurich from 1908 to 1911, and again from 1924 to 1928; from 1929 to 1931 he was professor of geology at Sun Yat Sen University and a member of the Geological Survey in Canton, China. He was a member of the Dirección de Minas y Geologia de Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1944 and 1945; his last position was as chief geologist of the Iran Oil Company in Teheran from 1950 until 1952. Although most of his time was spent on expeditions, either commercial or more purely scientific, he maintained a residence in Zurich throughout his life.

Heim’s initial fame as a geologist came from his studies of the Swiss Alps, a region in which he was active until about 1929. As early as 1905, in a lecture in Berlin, he spoke for the first time of a shoreline zone in the molasse forelands of the Glarus Alps and, through his discussion of the relationship of facies changes to the position and order of the thrust-sheets in the area, gave significant evidence for the theory of nappes. He continued these investigations in the western Santis, where he concentrated more specifically on stratigraphy than had his father. He studied the stratigraphy of the Valangian, considered the facies changes in the Albian, and examined microscopically the clastic texture of the Cretaceous strata. Heim mapped the Churfirsten-Mattstock group (on a scale of 1:25,000) in 1906; this map served as the basis for his article “Der westliche Teil des Säntisgebirges.”

Heim further recognized the erosion gulleys in the nagelfluh molasse beneath the thrust-sheets on the northern margin of the Alps, as well as the elongations (interrupted by pinchings out) and thrusting of the Säntis nappes over the Mürtschen nappe. In 1907 he first distinguished “exotic boulders” in the flysch as a stratigraphical phenomenon from the tectonic klippes. He also analyzed the nature of the facies of the Berrias-Valangian sediments of the region. In 1908 Heim realized the lithological importance of subaquatic landslides and studied, in the autochthonous Cretaceous and Eocene of the Kistenpass, the relationships of the facies to the Helvetian nappes and the course of the lines of similar facies (which he called the “isopens”) and the distribution of past facies. From 1908 to 1911 he investigated the distribution of nummilitic and flysch formations, reporting on the subject in 1911.

In 1909 Heim began, in Edinburgh, the study of recent deep-sea deposits and first stated his theory that the thick ground mass of undersea limestone was chemically precipitated from lime dissolved in deep water by an increase in temperature or a decrease in pressure. In further studies of the Pacific Ocean, he pointed out that limestone rarely occurs in the deep sea undenuded by dissolution or mechanical processes. In his work on the Alpine Cretaceous he showed discontinuities representing submarine erosion and emphasized that the majority of so-called zoogenic chalks contain fossil shells as only an accessory admixture. From these data, he inferred a change in the hydroclimate. Heim published his results in 1924.

His Churfirsten monograph (which also treated the Alvier group) contained a new statement of the comparative lithology of each stratum and discussed the modes of formation of the discontinuities therein. Heim thus established the evolution and the facies relationships of nappes. He continued his Alpine investigations during World War I, working in part with his father. He made studies of the Aar massif and the lower Freiburg Alps, of asphalt occurrences in the Jura, on talc mining near Disentis, and on the Swiss phosphate deposits. He recognized petroliferous sandstones as being the first layer at the base of the varicolored molasse. In 1918 he extended his investigations to the border range of the Allgau Alps in order to treat thoroughly the stratigraphy and tectonics of the Vorarlberg region. He published his findings in 1934, in a work in which he also concerned himself with the problem of stratigraphic condensation, and compared them to data from the Appalachians. In a later publication (1938) he correlated Alpine data to his findings in the Triassic of the Himalayas and in Timor.

Heim’s constant expeditionary activity retarded the publication of his geological surveys but brought him new material from all over the world. In addition to prospecting for oil, he published about 300 scientific works, including descriptions of his journeys (giving full accounts of flora and fauna and of the inhabitants of the region visited and their customs), maps, and geographical works. He also wrote on the psychology of birds and the flight of birds, bats, and insects and developed his own musical notation system to record bird and insect sounds. He developed a geological compass with a declination compensator (1913) and discussed methods and equipping of expeditions (1919 and 1930). He sought for the energy sources of the movements of the earth’s crust, which he had glimpsed in variations in the earth’s velocity and axes of rotation (1933). Even so, the greatest part of his work was never published.

Heim was married twice. His first wife was Anna Hartmann, whom he married in 1920; they had two sons, and were divorced in 1936. In 1949 he married Elizabeth Bertha von Brasch.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. A few of Heim’s publications are “Der westliche Teil des Säntisgebirges,” in Beiträge zur geologischen Karte der Schweiz, n. s. 16 , pt. 2 (1905), 313–515; “Monographic der Churfirsten-Mattstock-Gruppe,” ibid., n. s. 20 (1910–1918); Sommerfahrten in Grönland (Frauenfeld, 1910), written with M. Rikli; Minya Gongkar, Forschungsreise im Hochgebirge von Chinesisch-Tibet (Bern–Berlin, 1933); Negro Sahara. Von der Guineaküste zum Mittelmeer (Bern, 1934); Thron der Götter. Erlebnisse der I. Schweizerischen Himalaya-Expedition (Zurich–Leipzig, 1938), written with A. Gansser; trans. as The Throne of the Gods (London, 1939); “Central Himalaya. Geological Observations of the Swiss Expedition, 1936,” in Denkschriften der Schweizerischen naturforschenden Gesellschaft, 73 , no. 1 (1939); Weltbild eines Naturforschers. Mein Bekenntnis (Bern, 1942, 4th ed., 1948); “Die naturwissenschaftlichen Arbeiten von A. Heim 1905–1943. Autoreferat mit Verzeichnis der Publikationen,” in Vierteljahrsschrift der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Zürich, 89 (1944), supp. 3; Wunderland Peru. Naturerlebnisse (Bern, 1948, 2nd ed., 1957); Südamerika. Naturerlebnisse auf Reisen in Chile, Argentinien und Bolivien (Bern-Stuttgart, 1953); America del Sur (Barcelona, 1959); and “Die Fortsetzung des Verzeichnisses der Arbeiten 1944–1962,” in Journal. Schweizerische Stiftung für alpine Forschungen, 4, no. 11 (1962), 78–80.

II. Secondary Literature. On Heim and his work, see A. Gansser, “Arnold Heim als Geologe,” in Journal Schweizerische Stiftung für alpine Forschungen, 4 , no. 11 (1962) 63–65, 76–80; “A. Heim,” in Bulletin. Vereinigung schweizer Petroleum-Geologen und-Ingenieure, 32 , no. 82 (1965), 73–74; W. Rüegg, “Arnold Heim,” in Revista mineria, no. 70 (1965), 3–7; H. Suter, “Arnold Heim 1882–1965,” in Verhandlungen der Schweizerischen naturforschenden Gesellschaft (1965), pp. 270–272; and R. Trümpy, in Neue deutsche Biographie.

Walther Fischer

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