Oswald Heer (1809-1883)

Oswald Heer


Oswald Heer (August 31, 1809 – September 27, 1883), Swiss geologist and naturalist, was born at Niederuzwil in Canton of St. Gallen and died in Lausanne.

He was educated as a clergyman at Halle and took holy orders, and he also graduated as Doctor of Philosophy and medicine. Early in life his interest was aroused in entomology, on which subject he acquired special knowledge, and later he took up the study of plants and became one of the pioneers in paleobotany, distinguished for his researches on the Miocene flora.

In 1851 he became professor of botany in the university of Zürich, and he directed his attention to the Tertiary plants and insects of Switzerland. For some time he was director of the Botanical Garden Zürich. In 1863 (with William Pengelly, Phil. Trans., 1862) he investigated the plant-remains from the lignite-deposits of Bovey Tracey in Devon, regarding them as of Miocene age; but they are now classed as Eocene.

Heer also reported on the Miocene flora of Arctic regions (fossil plant remains brought back from Northwest Greenland by K.J.V. Steenstrup), on the plants of the Pleistocene lignites of Dürnten on lake Zürich, and on the cereals of some of the lake-dwellings (Die Pflanzen der Pfahlbauten, 1866).

During a great part of his career he was hampered by slender means and ill-health, but his services to science were acknowledged in 1873 when the Geological Society of London awarded to him the Wollaston medal. Dr Heer died at Lausanne on the 27th of September 1883.

He published Flora Tertiaria Helvetiae (3 vols., 1855-1859); Die Urwelt der Schweiz (1865), and Flora fossilis Arctica (1868-1883) and with Eduard Heinrich Graeffe.




Heer, O. 1849. Die Insektenfauna der Tertiärgebilde von Oeningen und von Radoboj in Croatien. Zweiter Theil: Heuschrecken, Florfliegen, Aderflüger, Schmetterlinge und Fliegen. Leipzig: W. Engelmann, vi + 264 pp.

Heer, O. 1852. Ueber die Haus-Ameise Madeiras. Zür. Jugend Naturforsch. Ges. 54: 1-24

Heer, O. 1864. Die Urwelt der Schweiz. [Lieferungen 7-11.]. Zürich: Friedrich Schulthess, pp. 289-496.

Heer, O. 1867. Fossile Hymenopteren aus Oeningen und Radoboj. Neue Denkschr. Allg. Schweiz. Ges. Gesammten Naturwiss. 22(4 4: 1-42

Heer, O. 1870. Die Miocene Flora und Fauna Spitzbergens. K. Sven. Vetensk.-Akad. Handl. (n.s. 3)8(7 7: 1-98

Heer, O. 1879. Die Urwelt der Schweiz. Zweite, umgearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage. Zürich: Friedrich Schulthess, xix + 713 pp


Harman. L. H. 2001. Bulletin of the American Musuem of Natural History 265: 76-77, portrait.

Bolton B, Alpert G, Ward PS, Naskrecki P. 2007. [CD-ROM] Bolton's Catalogue of the Ants of the World. Harvard University Press.