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Theodor Herzog


The year 2007 marked the one-hundredth anniversary of Theodor Herzog’s first trip to Bolivia. His contribution to our knowledge of Bolivian bryophytes still stands as a monumental achievement, and provides the foundation toward future studies.


Two individuals, Richard Spruce in the mid 19th century and Theodor Herzog in the early 20th century, are among the most notable historical figures associated with bryology and the tropical Andes. What makes Spruce and Herzog so prominent are their combined field experience and collections, and significant publications as a result of their fieldwork. The collection of bryophytes in the early 19th century from the Neotropics were made primarily by naturalists or botanists, and were inevitably then sent to European bryologists (who had never experienced the tropics) to be described and published. While naturalists or botanists probably had some slight knowledge of bryophytes, Spruce and Herzog had an intimate knowledge of bryophytes prior to their travels to South America, which surely enhanced the excellent quality of their collections.


Theodor Herzog. Portrait courtesy of the Herbarium Haussknecht, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, through the assistance of Hans-Joachim Zündorf. The painting of Herzog was made during his tenure in the military service during the First World War.


Theodor Herzog traveled to Bolivia on two separate collecting trips, 1907-1908 and 1910-1911. What motivated Herzog to choose Bolivia probably had as much to due with his passion for mountain climbing as for bryophytes. The principle localities visited were in the puna and montane forest of the cordilleras in the departments of Cochabamba, La Paz, and Santa Cruz, and the Chiquitano forest and cerrado vegetation in the lowlands of Santa Cruz. The single most important publication with regard to Bolivia by Herzog appeared in 1916, Die Bryophyten meiner zweiten Reise durch Bolivia. Prior to that Herzog published two moss articles in 1910 on the results of the first 1907-1908 collecting trip. A supplement to the 1916 publication appeared in 1920.


The publication of Die Bryophyten meiner zweiten Reise durch Bolivia is exceptional for several reasons view in Botanicus. The treatment of bryophytes was divided in authorship, Herzog treating the mosses, and Stephani the hepatics. Herzog provided the introduction and supplements of this volume. This work was the first related to mosses to be published by an author with intimate knowledge of the plants in the field (the same can be said of Spruce with regard to hepatics). Among the many excellent qualities of the 1916 treatment includes descriptions, discussions and illustrations of the many new species as well as some previously known species. The illustrations were the first high quality drawings for the mosses of the tropical Andes. Herzog also summarized the previous moss literature, and in essences provided the first checklist of Bolivian mosses. The unique supplements provided detailed accounts of the ecology, distribution and geographical affinities of Bolivian mosses. One of the supplements provided a detail account of specific localities providing a brief description of vegetation type and elevation followed by a listing of the bryophytes collected for each site see map. This allowed for the first time an assessment of species diversity and composition for various regions in the puna, the lower and upper montane forest, and the lowland regions including cerrado and Chiquitano forest.


The following translation was originally published in German by Riclef Grolle (1961. Revue Bryologique et Lichénologique 30: 155-162, pl. III). The text was translated by H.-D. Hacke through the assistance of Hans-Joachim Zündorf (JE), and slightly edited by S. Churchill. A few notes have been added and are placed in brackets.

† Theodor Herzog (7.7. 1880 – 6.5. 1961)

by Riclef Grolle

At the venerable age of over 80 years, Prof. Dr. h.c. Theodor Herzog quiet suddenly died following an apoplectic stroke. By his death, one of the great bryologists found his place in the history of this science.

Since 1952 Th. Herzog had been suffering from the consequences of a former stroke, and from other inconveniences due to old age. But repeatedly he developed new inner strengths by which he overcame these attacks on his health, and forced himself into intense scientific study. Up to his last days he daily drove or went to his institute, to work at the microscope in order to observe and draw. Here, working with the plants and observing their "morphe", even in the last years, was overwhelmed by the joy of discovery – just as in his youth who was so enthusiastic about new forms. A few days before his death he told me enthusiastically that he had found some plants of the moss genus Mittenia among a small set of Australian collections, which up to that time he had not known. As a result of his untiring efforts, even in the last years, he published a considerable number of extensive papers.

These tireless activities became apparent in his correspondence. There were rarely individuals who, on writing some request, would not have received an immediate response to their letters. He was anxious to answer his mail as soon as possible. Some years ago he received a letter from India in one of the vernacular languages of that country. The content of the letter was, of course, incomprehensible to him. So he responded to the sender in 5 different languages asking the sender to reply in a letter to one those languages.

His great willingness to help others in scientific matters became apparent by his generosity to provide specimens as a gift from his herbarium, and to provide loans of his collections of a taxonomic group, including the types, to specialists. The Herzog herbarium maybe said to be a moss herbarium of the world with most species represented. It is outstanding because it contains in an equally comprehensive manner, mosses as well the hepatics, from all continents, possibly with the exception of Africa.

The Herzog herbarium, together with the large specialized library, became the property of the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena by testamentary will. The Herzog collections will be housed in the Haussknecht Herbarium [JE].

Theodor Herzog came from Freiburg im Breisgau [Germany] where he, already as grammar school pupil in the intermediate classes, acquired thorough knowledge of the native flora of higher plants. When this could no longer provide any further new aspects, his teacher directed Theodor, and his school friend Karl Müller, to cryptogams, especially to the mosses. Here Karl Müller and Theodor Herzog made the following division: K. Müller became "competent" in hepatics and Th. Herzog in mosses. After having taken the finishing school examination (abitur), Th. Herzog became a student of the universities of Freiburg, Zürich and Munich. During this time, he summarized his knowledge of the Badic mosses in an exemplary regional flora, which appeared in Bulletin de l’Herbier Boissier as his first major publication [1904-1906: Die Laubmoose Badens. Eine bryogeographische Skizze. Bull. l’Herb. Boissier, Ser. 2, 4-6 (Als Separatum 1-402.]. In Zürich, besides his botanical studies, Th. Herzog was also very active in the academic skiing and mountaineering club and during his entire life remained an enthusiastic supporter of alpine sports. He climbed about 600 peaks in the Alps and the Andes, and there were, among these, several first ascents. In Munich he received his doctor’s degree under L. Radlkofer in 1903. In 1907 he received his postdoctoral lecturing qualification under C. Schroeter "Über die Vegetationsverhältnisse Sardiniens" (On the vegetation conditions of Sardinia) at the science faculty of the University of Zürich. Up to that time he had undertaken expeditions to Sardinia, Corsica, Tunis and Ceylon. In the following years he carried out two larger expeditions to Bolivia. Detailed vegetation-related and systematic reports were published for each of his travels. In World War I he was called up. Yet he used this time in so far as he could, during his stay in Rumania and Macedonia, to make considerable botanical collections. In 1919 he returned to Munich where he obtained an appointment as professor in 1920. In 1925 he accepted a position in Jena. Up to the time of his death he was faithful to this town and its university, which in 1948 appointed him "personal professor."

As the result of numerous travels Geographie der Moose (Geography of Bryophytes) was published while at Jena in 1926. This book ranks among the classic studies in bryology. In preparation of Geographie der Moose Th. Herzog had to study intensively for the first time hepatics. The knowledge of exotic hepatics was almost completely orphaned after the death of Stephanie and therefore Th. Herzog realized the necessity to devote his activities more and more also to this group of plants. So it happened that, contrary to the increasing tendency towards specialization in science, Th. Herzog learned to master the hepatics as well as the mosses of the world, and in an almost equally superior manner treated collections of both bryophyte groups from everywhere, thus taking an unique place among his contemporaries.

While at Jena, Th. Herzog was the mentor of several students who made important contributions to bryology [E.H. Benedix, H. Carl, W. Degenkolbe, H. Eifrig, F. Hilpert, G. Hofffmann, E. Stodiek, K. Walther, and W. Zwickel]. These contributions are listed at the end of the bibliography of Herzog’s publications. In 1948 Th. Herzog retired from his academic chair.

At the age of over 75 years Th. Herzog, for the third time in his life, subjected himself to the unselfish task of editing a major work for publication in which the author had died. The first was in 1910, Bryologica Atlantica by A. Geheeb; the second between 1933-34 of L. Radlkofer’s 1500 page monograph of the Sapindaceae. The last, in 1955 despite great difficulties, was K. Müller’s Die Lebermoose Europas (The hepatics of Europe). Thus he did an immeasurable service for the bryological community as well as to botany, for Die Lebermoose Europas is an outstanding, monumental summery of the knowledge of this scientific field and only a few areas of botany can bear such a comparison.


Th. Herzog received numerous great honors on the occasion of his 75-th birthday, in his home country and abroad. Commemorative publications appeared in two journals for this reason. Moreover, the honorary doctorate was conferred on him from the Natural History Faculty of the Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, and he became a honorary member of various societies, including the British and American bryological societies.


To his pupils he was an example of untiring scientific endeavor. Above all, they have a kind remembrance of a scientist’s personality of warm humanity whose primary concern was the scientific promotion of his students as well as their personal well being.


[The bibliography following the biography provides a list of 151 bryological publications by Theodor Herzog. Additional Herzog publications related to vascular plants and vegetation can be found in Feddes Repert. 58: 12-19. 1955.]



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