Hermann Loew

Friedrich Hermann Loew (July 19, 1807 - April 21, 1879) was a German entomologist who specialised in the study of Diptera, an order of insects including flies, mosquitoes, gnats and midges. He described many world species and was the first specialist to work on the Diptera of the United States.


Early years

Hermann Loew was born in Weissenfels, Saxony a short distance south of Halle (Germany). The Loew family, though not wealthy, was well-placed. Loew's father was a functionary for the Department of Justice of the Duchy of Saxony who later became a Geheimer Regierungsrath of Prussia. Between 1817 and 1829 Loew attended first the Convent school of Rossleben, then the University of Halle, graduating in mathematics, philology and natural history.

Teacher, tutor and husband

Recognizing his abilities as a mathematician, the university, on his graduation, appointed him as a lecturer in the same subjects. In 1830 he went to Berlin and gave lessons in different higher grade schools including the Kadetten-Schule military school . Here he was private tutor to Prince Biron heir to the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia and the young Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Albrecht von Graefe (1828-1870) later one of the most famous oculists of all times. In 1834 Loew was appointed superior teacher (Oberlehrer) at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Posen, known today as St. John Cantius High School in Poznań, Poland where he taught mathematics and natural history. In the same year he married the daughter of senior preacher Ehricht, a favourite sermoniser. Several of Loew's pupils at Posen became scientific celebrities, the most notable being the philosopher Kuno Fischer (1824- 1907) and the mathematicians Leo Konigsberge (1837-1921) and Lazarus Immanuel Fuchs (1835-1902). That they became such, gifted though they were, must have been due to Loew's extraordinary abilities and his popularity with students.

The Far East

In 1841-2 Loew accompanied Heinrich Kiepert (1818-1899) a celebrated geographer and August Schoenborn to the Near East. The results of this trip were later partly communicated to Hermann Carl Conrad Burmeister (1807-1892) and Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and the remainder (the greatest part) used in Loew's own, later, publications. August Schoenborn, philologist and geographer, was also a professor at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Posen and author of some Latin school books. He eventually became Loew's brother in law. Humboldt was of course the author of the chattily readable "Kosmos", an account of the visible universe, and the most celebrated German naturalist explorer of his day. Many other countries were visited en route including Turkey and Asia Minor.


In 1848 Loew was elected to the German Parliament in Frankfurt am Main. Elected to the first German Parliament when 40 years old Loew, resisted the separatist longings of the Poles from his outpost (Posen) near the frontier of Poland. He belonged to Heinrich von Gagern's Imperial Party, a grouping which fostered Liberalism in Germany and pursued a policy of fusion for the German states.

Tragedy, Disappointment and a return to teaching

Disillusioned by failure to realise German unity and distressed by the death of his 21 year-old daughter from the plague, in 1850, Loew left politics. In 1850 he was appointed director of the royal "Realschule" Mesritz (a Realschule is a school which emphasized technical and scientific studies). Due to the efforts of Loew the Mesritz Realschule was later to became a gymnasium (a more classical sort of school, though still scientific). While at Mesritz Loew gave up politics so as not to be in conflict with the educational department) and resisted offers of a seat in the Prussian Landtag (Federal state parliament) for the district of Mesritz-Bomst.

Bad health

Severe health problems between 1851 and 1854 forced retirement and in 1868 he received a pension and took up the study of Diptera full-time after moving to Guben, Prussia. Here he worked incessantly on Diptera.

In 1870 he was elected city-counsellor and vice-president of the city council in Guben and held a seat in the legislature in Berlin for the Sorau-Guben district between 1873 and 1876.

Last years

The imminent end of Loew was signalled on a summer holiday in Blankenburg in Thuringia when he had a paralytic stroke after which he sought treatment in the Diaconissen-Haus in Halle, Saxony on April 21 1879. Only three of his seven children survived him. His obituary in the Vassisches Zeitung described him as a "distinguished pedagogue, naturalist pioneer of German Unity".

Loew's character

A Lutheran protestant, Loew's motto was "Gott Helfe"- God helps or God may help. Loew was on obsessive worker. Something of his nature can be judged from his refusing to eat warm food to pay off the loans incurred during his education and from his extraordinary calligraphy with its machine-like precision. There is never any difficulty with reading a Loew label, characteristically justified to the side margins. Loew shared such personality traits with the neurotically obsessive fellow entomologist Alexander Henry Haliday.


Hermann Loew was undoubtedly the dominating dipterist from the 1840s and for the following three decades. Although predominantly a describer delineating the taxonomically useful characters of more than 4,000 species mainly from the Palaearctic and North America but also from the Afrotropics and the Far East, Loew made important contributions to higher taxonomy. Loew worked mainly on Nematocera and Brachycera.

Hermann Loew is best known with regard to Diptera paleontology for his work with Baltic amber inclusions. He was the first investigator to seriously interest himself in the Diptera of amber and his 1850 work on the amber Diptera from the Baltic region was the major foundation for all future study on amber Diptera.

Loew's collections

Loew's personal Baltic amber collection is in the Natural History Museum, London. Types of fossil species based on material in the Klebs Collection are now in Göttingen. Fossil types based on specimens from the Berendt collection are in the Palaontologisches Museum, (Humboldt-Universitat), Berlin. Types of recent Diptera are in Museum für Naturkunde, (Humboldt-Universitat), Berlin except the North American species which are in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, South African material which is in the University of Halle, Zoological Museum, Alaskan species which are in the Zoological Museum in Helsingfors. Other Loew specimens, including types are in the Natural History Museum in Stockholm and in the Natural History Museum, London (Lepidoptera from Turkey). Small numbers of specimens are in the Natural History Museum in Dublin, Ireland and in the Hope Department of Entomology ,University of Oxford.

Insects named for Loew


These papers and monographs from 1861-1865 give some indication of Loew's scope

  • 1861 Diptera aliquot in insula Cuba collecta. Wiener Entomologische Monatschrift. 5: 33-43. (February)
  • Loew, H. 1861b. Neue Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Dipteren. Achter Beitrag [part]. Programm K. Realschule Meseritz 1861: 1-60.
    (The continuation of this paper appeared in Programm K. Realschule Meseritz Programm K. Realschule Meseritz 1862: 61-100. A separate publication, published by Mittler and Sohn, Berlin, 1861, contains the entire "Achter Beitrag" [Achter. Beitrag K. Realschule zu Meseritz Programma.), p. 1-100. ]
  • 1861. Blaesoxipha grylloctona, nov. genus et species. Wien. Entomol. Monatschr. 5: 384-87. 1861 [Wien. Ent. Monatschr. V]
  • 1861 Monographie der Sepsiden (Dipt. ). Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien 40 : 1-110.
  • 1861 Über die Dipterenfauna des Bernsteins Amtl. Ber. Vers. Dtsch. Naturf. 35 (1860):88-98
  • 1861 Die europaischen Arten der Gattung Stenopogon Wien. Entomol. Monatschr. 5:8-13
  • 1861 Ueber die bisher in Schlesien aufgefundenen Arten der Gattung Chlorops Macq. . , Berliner. Entomol. Z. 15: 1-96.
  • 1862. Monographs of the Diptera of North America. Part I. Smithson. Misc. Collect. 6(1)[= No. 141], xxiv + 221 p. (April)
  • 1862 Diptera Americae septentrionalis indigena. In parts Centuria secunda. Berliner. Entomol. Z. 6: 185-232.
  • 1862. Ueber einige bei Varna gefangene Dipteren. Wien. Entomol. Monatschr. 6: 161-75.
  • 1862. Die europischen Bohrfliegen (Trypetidae). W. Junk, Wien [= Vienna]. 128 p. [Preface dated 24 June. ]
  • 1862. Ueber die europischen Helomyzidae und die in Schlesien vorkommenden Arten derselben. Z. Entomol. 13: 1-80.
  • 1862. in Peters: Naturwissenschaftliche Reise nah Mossambique in 1842. Part 5, Insekten und Myriapoden [Diptera pp. 1-34, 1 coloured plate.]
  • 1863. Diptera Americae septentrionalis indigena. Centuria tertia. Berlin. Entomol. Ztsch. , Z. 7: 1-55.
  • 1863 Diptera Americae septentrionalis indigena. Centuria quarta. Berl. Entomol. Z. 7: 275-326.
  • 1863 Enumeratio dipterorum quae C. Tollin ex Africa meridionali Wien. Entomol. Monatschr. 7:9-16.
  • 1864. Monographs of Diptera of North America. Part II. Smithson. Misc. Collect. 6, xi + 360 p. [Dolichopodidae. Smithsonian Miscellaneous collections 171. Wash. :Smithsonian Inst. 1-359,]
  • 1864b. Gitona formosa, eine neue deutsche Art. Wien. Entomol. Monatschr. 8: 366-68. [I-XI, pl. 3-7].
  • 1864. Diptera Americae septentrionalis indigena. Vol. 1. [Centuria 1-5. ] A. W. Schadii, Berolini [= Berlin]. 266 p. - a one-volume reissue of the first five centuries published in Berl. Entomol. Z. .
  • 1864 On the Diptera or two-winged insects of the amber-fauna Amer. J. Sci. (2) 37:305-324.
  • 1864 In Schiner Catalogus systematicus dipterorum Europae.
  • 1865 Ueber einige bei Kutais in Imeritien gefangene Dipteren Berliner.

Longer list of works see the references in Sabrosky's Family Group Names in Diptera and also the German version of this page.


  • Anonym 1878-1879 [Loew, F. H.] Ber. Senckenb. Naturf. Ges. Frankf.a.M. 1878-79: 7
  • Anonym 1879 [Biographien] Zool. Anz. 2: 336
  • Anonym 1879 [Loew, F. H.] Entomologist's Monthly Magazine (3) 16: 46
  • Anonym 1879 [Loew, F. H.] Ent. Nachr. (F. Karsch) 5: 146
  • Anonym 1879 [Loew, F. H.] Naturaliste Canad. 1: 63
  • Anonym 1969 [Loew, H.] Ann. Natal Mus. 19
  • Carus Sterne 1879 [Loew, F. H.] Dtsch. ent. Ztschr. 23: 419-423
  • Essig, E. O. 1931 A History of Entomology. New York, Macmillan Company : VI+1-1029 691-694, Portr.
  • Evenhuis, N. L. 1992 The publication and dating of Hermann Loew’s school-program Diptera articles. Anh... 19 (3): 375–378.
  • Evenhuis, N. L. 1997 Litteratura taxonomica dipterorum (1758-1930). Volume 1 (A-K); Volume 2 (L-Z). Leiden, Backhuys Publishers 1; 2 VII+1-426; 427-871 2: 486-496, Portrait.
  • Hesselbart, G., Oorschot, H. van & Wagener, S. 1995 Die Tagfalter der Türkei unter Berücksichtigung der angrenzend en Länder. Bocholt, Selbstverlag S. Wagener. 99.
  • Kowarz 1879: [Loew, F. H.] Verh. k.k. Ges. Wien, Sitzungsber. 29 45-47.
  • Krause, E. 1879 [Loew, F. H.] Dt. ent. Z. 23 419-423
  • Musgrave, A. 1932 Bibliography of Australian Entomology 1775-1930. Sydney
  • Nonveiller, G. 1999 The Pioneers of the research on the Insects of Dalmatia. Zagreb, Hrvatski PridodoslovniMuzej : 1-390.
  • Osborn, H. 1937 Fragments of Entomological History Including Some Personal Recollections of Men and Events.Columbus, Ohio, Published by the Author.
  • Osborn, H. 1952 A Brief History of Entomology Including Time of Demosthenes and Aristotle to Modern Times with over Five Hundred Portraits. Columbus, Ohio, The Spahr & Glenn Company.
  • Osten-Sacken 1884 [Loew, F. H.] Verh. k.k. Ges. Wien, Sitzungsber. 34 455-464.
  • Osten-Sacken, C. R. 1903 Record of my life and work in entomology. Cambridge (Mass.) 29-35, 44-45, 99-137,144-153, 158-164.
  • Speiser 1907: [Loew, F. H.] Ent. Wochenbl. 24 129-130.
  • Stone, A. 1980 History of Nearctic Dipterology. in Griffiths, G. C. D. (Ed.). Flies of the Nearctic Region.Stuttgart, Schweizerbart 1(1) XIII+1-62 36-37.
  • van Rossum, A. J. 1908 Hermann Löew Lerdacht. Ent. Berichten 2 217.

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