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Bernd Heinrich, Ph.D (b. April 19, 1940, Germany), is a professor emeritus in the biology department at the University of Vermont and is the author of a number of books about nature writing, behavior, biology, ecology, and evolution. Heinrich has made major contributions to the study of insect physiology and behavior, as well as bird behavior. In addition to other publications, Heinrich has written over ten books, mostly related to his research examining the physiological and behavioral adaptations of animals to their physical environments. However, he has also written books that include more of his personal reflections on nature.


Education and Early Career

Heinrich earned his Ph.D in 1970 from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1971, he accepted a position at University of California, Berkeley where he became Professor of Entomology. He stayed until 1980. Between 1976 and 1977 he was Guggenheim and Harvard Fellow. In 1980 Heinrich accepted a position as a Professor of Zoology/Biology at the University of Vermont. From 1988 to 1989 he was a von Humboldt Fellow.


In Bumblebee Economics, Heinrich researched mechanisms of temperature regulation and energy economics in bees, showing that bees maintain a body temperature above the ambient environmental temperature, and are heterothermic.

In Ravens in Winter, Heinrich studied the social organization of ravens with a view to understanding how and why unrelated individuals share and/or defend intermittently plentiful food sources.

More recently, in Mind of the Raven, he concentrated on exploring cognition in ravens, including the possibility that some of their behavior is derived from conscious choice. In Mind of the Raven, Heinrich details his observations of raven behavior, which includes such complex activities as strong pair-bonding, use of tools, elaborate vocal communication, and play. In one test that he devised, Heinrich discovered that different ravens came up with different solutions to retrieve meat that was tied to a string. The book won the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing.

Marathon and Ultra-Marathon Career

Heinrich has won numerous long distance running events and set a number of Open U.S. ultramarathon and masters (40+) records throughout the 1980s. At the age of 39, Heinrich prefaced his masters career by winning the Golden Gate Marathon outright, with a time of 2:29:16, on a hilly course in San Francisco, California.[1]

In 1980, Heinrich ran 2:22:34, his lifetime personal best, in the West Valley Marathon in Burlingame, California, where he placed third and missed qualifying for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials by just forty seconds.

On April 21, 1980, two days after his 40th birthday, he was first masters (40 & over) finisher at the Boston Marathon, with a time of 2:25:25. Since he wrote "39" on his entry form (his age on the day he entered), however, Boston Marathon officials instead gave the award to second-place finisher Raymond Swan of Bermuda. Heinrich then struggled for a full year to get the award that was rightfully his. His essay about that struggle earned him an award from the New York Times for a first-person story about running, and his tale appeared in the Times shortly before the 1982 New York City Marathon.

In 1981, he set an absolute American Record (i.e., the best of either road or track venues; this one was a road race in Chicago) of 6:38:20 for 100 km (62.137 miles). Two years later, he set an absolute American Record for the 24 Hour Run of 156 miles, 1388 yards in a track race in Maine. In 1984, he set an absolute American 100 mile record of 12:27:01, again in a track race. One year later, he set the American track record of 7:00:12 for 100 km. In so doing, he became the only American man to hold both the road and track versions of the American Record for the same event. His 12:27:01 for 100 miles and 7:00:12 for 100 km still remained, at the end of 2007, the official American Track records. At the end of 2007, Heinrich was inducted into the American Ultrarunning Association's Hall of Fame.

In Why We Run: A Natural History, Heinrich reflected on the sport of running as a scientist, and recounted his performance in the 100 kilometer race that ushered in his ultra-marathon career. Originally titled Racing the Antelope, one of the arguments of the book is that we evolved to be ultra-distance runners that could run down even the swiftest prey, through a combination of endurance, intelligence, and the desire to win (c.f. Persistence hunting).

Selected Publications

  • Bumblebee Economics (1979)
  • In a Patch of Fireweed (1984)
  • Insect Thermoregulation (1981)
  • One Man's Owl (1987)
  • Ravens in Winter (1989)
  • Owl in the House: A Naturalist's Diary (1990) (= children's version of 'one man's owl')
  • Hot-Blooded Insects: Strategies and Mechanisms of Insect Thermoregulation(1993), ISBN 978-0-674-40838-8
  • Year in the Maine Woods (1994)
  • Thermal Warriors: Strategies of Insect Survival (1996), ISBN 978-0-674-88340-6
  • Trees in My Forest (1998), ISBN 978-0-06-092942-8
  • Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds (1999), ISBN 978-0-06-093063-9
  • Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us About Running and Life (2001)
  • Why We Run: A Natural History, HarperCollins, (2002), ISBN 978-0-06-095870-1 (same content as 'racing the antelope')
  • The Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival (2003), ISBN 978-0-06-095737-7
  • The Geese of Beaver Bog (2004)
  • The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology (2007). ISBN 978-0-06-074215-7
  • Summer world: a time of bounty (2009)

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I do not yet want to form a hypothesis to test, because as soon as you make a hypothesis, you become prejudiced. Your mind slides into a groove, and once it is in that groove, has difficulty noticing anything outside of it.

Bernd Heinrich, Ph.D (born 19 April 1940) is a professor in the zoology department at the University of Vermont and is the author of a number of books about nature writing, zoology, ecology, and evolution.


A Year in the Maine Woods (1995)

  • I do not yet want to form a hypothesis to test, because as soon as you make a hypothesis, you become prejudiced. Your mind slides into a groove, and once it is in that groove, has difficulty noticing anything outside of it. During this time, my sense must be sharp; that is the main thing — to be sharp, yet open.
    • Wondering how golden-crowned kinglets, who eat insects from open branches, survive the Maine winters, in "December 11 : Wind", p. 150
  • Conditions are seldom ideal, and if one waits long enough for ideal conditions one is just making excuses.
    • "December 11 : Wind", p. 152

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