Herbert Zim, Creator of “Golden Guides,” Born (1909)

The name Herbert Zim may not mean much to you—but what he produced will.  Zim, born on July 12, 1909 (died 1994), was the brains and brawn behind the Golden Nature Guides, also known simply as Golden Guides

Herbert S. Zim (photo courtesy of University of Southern Mississippi)

            Herbert Spencer Zim was born in New York City, but moved with his family at an early age to California.  He returned to New York as a college student, eventually earning BS, MS and PhD degrees from Columbia University.  He became an elementary science teacher for the Ethical Culture Schools in New York City for two decades.  He was a conscientious objector during World War Two, servi            ng as a military trainer and in public service during the war.  He later moved to the University of Illinois as a professor of education from 1950-1957.

            His primary impact on conservation, however, was as an author and editor of children’s science books.  Early books were often about physical science, but he soon turned to writing books about nature.  In 1945, he originated the Golden Guides, a series of 160-page field guides that could be carried in a pocket.  The Guides covered a broad range of subjects, including plant and animal taxa, geological formations, and regions of the U.S.  No budding young naturalist in the 1950-1970s would venture into the field without one or more of these books in her/his backpack or pockets.

Covers of early books in the Golden Guides series

            Zim retired from teaching in the 1960s and moved to an oceanside retreat on Key Largo, Florida, where he continued to write and edit.  In total, he produced more than 100 books.  His books were described by the New York Times as “concise, engaging and comprehensible to children without being simplistic.”

            I had the honor of staying at his Key Largo home in 1969, as a senior at the University of Illinois.  About a dozen undergraduates were visiting Florida on a spring break field excursion led by Hurst Shoemaker, professor of ichthyology at Illinois and his co-author for the Golden Guides on Fishes.  I remember Zim as a genial scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world and a unabashed love for his local environment.

References:

Archives West.  Herbert Spencer and Sonia Bleeker papers, 1934-1976.  Available at:  http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv50293. Accessed July 12, 2017.

Perez-Pena, Richard.  1994.  Herbert S. Zim Is Dead at 85; Wrote Childrens’ Science Books.  New York Times, December 12, 1994.  Available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/12/obituaries/herbert-s-zim-is-dead-at-85-wrote-children-s-science-books.html. Accessed July 12, 2017.

University of Illinois Press.  2017.  200 Years of Illinois:  Golden Nature Guides, July 12, 2017.  Available at:  http://www.press.uillinois.edu/wordpress/?p=21733. Accessed July 12, 2017.

University of Southern Mississippi.  Herbert S. Zim Papers.  Available at:  http://www.lib.usm.edu/legacy/degrum/public_html/html/research/findaids/DG1086f.html. Accessed July 12, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

July 1
Duck Stamp Born (1934)
July 2
Morrill Act Created Land-Grant Universities (1862)
July 3
Great Auk Went Extinct (1844)
July 4
Stephen Mather, Founding Director of the National Park Service, Born (1867)
July 5
Yoshimaro Yamashina and Ernst Mayr, Ornithologists, Born (1900, 1904)
July 6
Maria Martin, Naturalist and Artist, Born (1796)
July 7
Alaska Admitted as a State (1958)
July 8
1234567890
July 9
Starbucks Abandoned Plastic Straws (2018)
July 10
Rainbow Warrior Bombed and sunk (1985)
July 11
World Population Day
July 12
Herbert Zim, Creator of “Golden Guides,” Born (1909)
July 13
Source of the Mississippi River Discovered (1832)
July 14
George Washington Carver National Monument Established (1943)
July 15
Emmeline Pankhurst, British Suffragette Leader, Born (1858)
July 16
UNESCO Added Giant Panda and Shark Sanctuaries to World Heritage List (2006)
July 17
Handel’s “Water Music” Premiered (1717)
July 18
Gilbert White, the “First Ecologist,” Born (1720)
July 19
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal, Created (1976)
July 20
Gregor Mendel, Pioneering Geneticist, Born (1822)
July 21
Aswan High Dam Opened (1970)
July 22
Ratcatcher’s Day
July 23
Commercial Whaling Banned (1982)
July 24
Machu Picchu Discovered (1911)
July 25
Jim Corbett, Tiger Conservationist, Born (1875)
July 26
James Lovelock, Originator of the Gaia Theory, Born (1919)
July 27
Przewalski’s horse gave birth by artificial insemination (2013)
July 28
Beatrix Potter, Author and Conservationist, Born (1866)
July 29
International Tiger Day
July 30
Golden Spike National Historical Park Created (1965)
July 31
Curt Gowdy, Sportscaster and Conservationist, Born (1919)
January February March April May June July August September October November December