Arnold Heim (1882–1965)


Arnold Heim (born on 20 March 1882), the son of the first Swiss female physician Marie Heim-Vögtlin and the geologist Albert Heim, studied geology in Zurich. From 1908 to 1911 and from 1924 to 1928, he was a private lecturer at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich before working as a professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Canton in China from 1929 to 1931.

Findings on sedimentation and tectonics

Heim conducted key studies in the Säntis and Churfirsten region, and his findings on links between sedimentation and tectonics were ground-breaking.   

His research on oil deposits on behalf of industry and various governments catapulted him to worldwide fame.

Travel and search for petroleum

Numerous extended trips to the four corners of the earth were not solely devoted to geology, however, but also observing nature and studying foreign peoples and cultures. In the process, Heim became a fierce critic of the western lifestyle and a pioneer of decolonisation and nature conservation.

Switzerland's precarious supply of raw materials during the First World War prompted the machine industry to commission Heim to research lucrative oil deposits in the country. After some initial promise, the project was abandoned on financial grounds. Throughout his lifetime, however, Heim was convinced of the prospect of striking oil in Switzerland. On 3 October 1957, he gave a lecture in front of the Freisinnige Partei in Zurich, in which he immediately began criticizing Switzerland’s deficit in petrol geology and attributed it to the short-sightedness of state and financial institutions.    

Arnold Heim died in Zurich on 27 May 1965.


Heims Notiz

Lecture notes "Is There Any Crude Oil in Switzerland"


The ETH Zurich University Archives curate Heim's substantial personal papers:

  • Arnold Heim. Manuscripts, photographs, slides, separata collection from his personal papers. Manuscripts and autographs from ETH-Bibliothek 155. Zurich 1955. ETH E-Collection (external link)
  • Arnold Heim. Correspondence from his personal papers. Manuscripts and autographs from ETH-Bibliothek 156. Zurich 1992. ETH E-Collection (external link)

His personal papers also contain extensive series of large-scale glass slides from his research expeditions. These photographs can be viewed on E-Pics Image Archive Online (external link). The Image Archive also contains film and audio documents on Arnold Heim.