As this issue of Sphecos was nearing completion, we learned of the recent death of Børge Petersen, a mutillid expert at the Zoologisk Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Fritz Plaumann was a well known collector of Brasilian Hymenoptera. He sold material to many museums and individuals over the years. Plaumann's collection was described in the following articles: A coleção de insetos de Fritz Plaumann, by Benedito Cortês Lopes, 1988, Ciência Hoje 7(38):74; Museu Entomológico Fritz Plaumann by Hitoshi Nomura, 1991, Revta bras. Ent. 35:474-478. Two obituaries have been published in Revta bras. Ent. 39(1):225-227 (1995): one by Hitoshi Nomura and one by Edeltraudt Pierozan. Marcelo Teixeira Tavares translated them into English for us:
Friedrich Plaumann or Fritz Plaumann, as he was better known, was born in Eylau, Prussia [now Russia], on May 2, 1902. He was the son of Friedrich Wilhelm Plaumann and Hulda Plaumann. He died in the town of Seara, Nova Teutônia, Santa Catarina, Brasil, the 22nd of September, 1994.
Fritz Plaumann and his Entomological Museum were described in Revta bras. Ent. 35:474-478 (1991).
Fritz came to Brasil with his parents, arriving at the port of Rio Grande on November 4, 1924 (Rio Grande do Sul). Ten days later they reached Seara, Nova Teutônia, where they settled down. He had attended high school in Eylau as well as Königsburg, but he could not afford college. He used to collect insects and record meteorological data, routines that he continued in the state of Santa Catarina.
His entomological collection contains over 80,000 specimens and 17,000 species. This material was identified by well known entomologists around the world, including Brasilians. He wrote his letters in German, French, English and Portuguese. The government of Nova Teutônia purchased his collection. The Fritz Plaumann Entomological Museum was founded with the help of the state of Santa Catarina and Germany. It was inaugurated October 23, 1988 when he was 86 years old. Visiting entomologists will find a laboratory there in which they can work.
Since 1971 Fritz received many honors (see 1991 paper cited above). About 160 species of insects, one frog, six genera and one subfamily were named in his honor.
He published only three papers:
Entomology has lost one of the grand collectors, who now joins others like J. F. Zikán, Ricardo von Diringshofen and Julius Arp.
1924. The economy of Germany after the First World War was not good and the country was in recession. The Plaumann's had been prosperous merchants, but because of the postwar hardships, they decided to try a new life in distant, unknown Brasil. So they arrived with young Fritz who had an eagerness to explore and learn about his new land. Music, literature, sports, and entomology were passions that Fritz had to set aside because they were absent in his primitive new homeland. He did not lose his heart, however, because he soon discovered the wonders of the forest, and here he developed his major passion, entomology. Almost immediately he explored the fields and forests of Seara in search of insects, cataloging them and trying to find new species. Music and his other passions were not forgotten. Fritz devoted time to each of them to complete his education and improve his spirit.
1925. At the age of 22, Fritz Plaumann began life in earnest in Brasil. He was a photographer, professor and writer, all of this as a means of survival. But ultimately, entomology and the world needed Fritz Plaumann. The world did not seem so large to Fritz, and he corresponded with many people from many of the countries around the world in an effort to increase his knowledge.
1954. This was a happy year for Fritz. He married Clarissa, a German with whom he had corresponded, and they hoped for a happy life in Brazil. However, the isolation of Nova Teutônia was more than she could bear, and Clarissa returned to Germany. She left Fritz alone with his insects. His love of nature and entomology was greater than any other. Fritz' loneliness was softened by Gisela and Edeltraudt. Both of them dedicated their love to Fritz as well as his work. We do not know what strange forces cause a man to dedicate his entire life and love to one work, but Fritz dedicated each minute of his life to entomology and to the study of nature. His desire for knowledge was so great that nothing escaped his eyes and his thoughts. Thus he studied minerology, climatology, botany, and other fields of human knowledge.
1994. On the 22nd of September at 9:45 AM Fritz left us, his life dedicated to nature finished. 92 years of study, 92 years of work, and above everything else, 92 years dedicated to humanity.
Alessandro Mochi died tragically during a collecting trip in Africa with Woj Pulawski (see p. 15). An obituary in Italian by Pier Luigi Scaramozzino appeared in Hy-Men 6, pages 6-8 (1995). He kindly provided an English translation for Sphecos. Sandro, as he was known to his friends, was a true gentleman in every respect and I was fortunate to have met him briefly during a visit to the Smithsonian many years ago. He was a great collector and built up a meticulously prepared collection. His wasp collection has been placed in the Museo Regionale de Scienze Naturali in Torino, Italy. - editor
It was under an African sky at Lusaka (Zambia) that Alessandro breathed his last at the age of 75 on 6 April 1995 under circumstances that even now are not entirely clear. He was in Zambia with Wojciech J. Pulawski, a fellow entomologist from the California Academy of Sciences, for what he himself had called the last of his entomological hunts. His intention, in fact, was to devote the future to rearranging his collection of Aculeata and publishing the many observations of these Hymenoptera that he had accumulated since his childhood.
Mochi was born at Cairo in 1920 and lived in Egypt until 1938. During the war he served with the Allies in Italy and took a degree in medicine at Rome. From 1949 to 1979, he worked for the WHO (World Health Organization) and travelled with his family to many developing countries: Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, North Yemen, Myanmar, Philippines and Jamaica. After his retirement, he continued to work as a consultant in public health plans and projects, and journeyed throughout the Third World.
In his teens, Alessandro collected insects of every kind in Egypt, especially the Aculeata. He got to know Alfieri, Keeper of the Royal Entomology Museum in Cairo, and Efflatoun Bey, an entomologist at the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture.
He drew this love of entomology from his father Alberto, who took him, together with his wife Antonia and their Nubian driver Abu, out to collect Hymenoptera on the outskirts of Cairo. These insect hunts, of course, were confined to Spring Sundays from April to June and others in Autumn, when the wind was not blowing from the desert and there were no commitments in the way of studying and preparing for examinations. The burning summer heat was enough to banish any thought of going out into the desert to collect insects under the midday sun. The family's excursions also included trips to some of the lesser known and harder to reach oases. There was an "expedition" to Rhodes, where Alberto went to work in the summer of 1933, while other summer holidays were spent in Italy and Switzerland. On these occasions, both father and son collected the insects which formed the original core of the A. Mochi Collection that bears their joint name, while another son contributed the first examples of the fauna of tropical Africa from Ethiopia and Somalia.
During these years, Alberto was in touch with European entomologists and exchanged material with them. As a result, he became so engrossed in the question of systematics that he took painting lessons at the age of 55 in order to illustrate his monographs on the Cerceris, Philanthus and Stizus of Egypt which were published in 1939 and 1940.
Shortly before the war, the Mochi family left Egypt for what was expected to be a short absence, and the collection was placed in the hands of Alfieri. Fate willed otherwise, however, and it was not until 1946 that Alberto miraculously recovered it, albeit shorn of many items. These had probably been sold in the interim, since some Mochi types can now be found in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washingtion, D.C.*
In 1952 at Damascus, Alessandro began to collect Hymenoptera again. Over a period of three years, he gathered and prepared more than 5000 Aculeata from Syria and Lebanon. Some of these were studied by De Beaumont (Lausanne) and Pulawski, who also described a certain number of new species. In the years that followed, he never ceased to add further specimens whenever the seasons and his commitments allowed. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, Central African Republic, Zaire, Congo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Senegal and Madagascar were the main sources, while other items came from North and South Yemen, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Philippines. Palaearctic insects were collected by Mochi in Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey and Tunis, or received in exchange from other entomologists.
Fluency in the main European languages and Arabic, which he spoke with a slight Syrian accent, and the experience he had acquired after so many years spent in Arab and African countries, made Alessandro an admirable travelling companion, who never had a problem handling difficult situations.
Before leaving for Zambia, he had been preparing himself for the sedentary work that awaited his return: hours spent determining insects, arranging the collection, consulting books and journals, and contacting specialists and museums. He had begun to write down his numerous impressions gathered during a lifetime spent in the field collecting and examining insects. Among his papers I have found several notes on the Sphecidae of Egypt, Sardinia and Greece, jottings on cladistics, and index cards.
Thanks to the intervention of his friend Franco Strumia, the Alessandro Mochi collection is now at the Regional Natural Sciences Museum, Turin, in the company of other noteworthy Hymenoptera collections, such as that of Massimiliano Spinola. It will now be available for study by specialists. The bulk of this most important collection consists of Sphecidae, followed by Pompilidae, Scoliidae, Chrysididae, Mutillidae and a few others, derived from several parts of Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe. Many of the areas where Alessandro used to go are now off limits for political reasons, and may well remain so for a good number of years. His collection is a mine of data that only patient study will bring to light, and in so doing fulfill what he had hoped to achieve. As he wrote some time ago, "I hope to publish some day, but just now I am still too occupied professionally and feel too young to limit myself to sedentary work only" (Sphecos, 6:25, 1982).
Entomological publications by Alessandro Mochi:
Pier Luigi Scaramozzino*Postscript Sandro's own account of the history of his collection (Sphecos 14:42-44, 1987) and his life is worth reading for more detail. He makes it clear that Alfieri removed holotypes from the Mochi Collection during the war and incorporated them in his own. The Smithsonian purchased the Alfieri Collection about 30 years ago and thus acquired the Mochi types contained in it. In his Sphecos article Sandro stated that the Smithsonian " . . . would be a most fitting place for [the Mochi material taken by Alfieri]." The Mochi types at the Smithsonian are: Ammoplanopterus sinaiticus, Cerceris alfierii, C. gynochroma, C. lateriproducta, C. priesneri, Philanthus sinaiticus, P. soikae, Stizus arnoldi and S. rufoniger. editor
Our joint entomological expedition to Zambia in 1995 turned out to be the last one in Sandro's life. As we went to Mumbwa, a small town some 150 km west of Lusaka, Sandro refused to eat during the evening of 31 March. He ate little the following day, and did not feel well. A visit to the local hospital revealed no malaria, and the reason for his condition was unclear to us. I drove Sandro to Lusaka, and tried to put him on the first available flight to Rome. The reservation was made for the evening of 4 April, but Sandro was not allowed to board the plane because he was in a wheelchair, and we lacked a medical certificate stating that he was able to fly, an airline requirement for wheelchair passengers (a requirement for which we had had no advance warning). We returned to the hotel and the following day I made flight reservations for the next flight, April 6. With the hotel manager's help, I found a good doctor who came to the hotel, examined Sandro carefully, diagnosed dehydration, predicted that the patient would be walking by the next day, and signed the required medical form for British Airways ("prognosis for travel: fair to good"). Unfortunately, Sandro's condition worsened during the night, apparently a consequence of a previously undiagnosed diabetic condition. With the help of the Italian Embassy, he was taken to the University Teaching Hospital the morning of April 6, where he passed away that afternoon. Sandro's death was a great tragedy for his family, and I lost a dear friend and collecting companion.
I first met Sandro on the Paris-Abijan plane in 1991. When preparing for my trip to the Ivory Coast, I wrote to him about my plans, and he expressed an interest in accompanying me. Having him with me was very fortunate because of his experience in tropical countries. Since that first trip, we have collected wasps together in Senegal (1991), Egypt and Mauritania (1993), and Madagascar (1994). The trip to Zambia was our sixth joint expedition.
Sandro was a very able, gentle, and cultured man. He was a medical doctor by training, and worked for the World Health Organization throughout his career. His responsibilities included public health and he traveled extensively all over the world supervising medical programs, helping build hospitals, and the like. His interest in entomology was inherited from his father, Alberto Mochi, who was a medical doctor in Cairo, Egypt (where Sandro was born), and who published several important papers on the Sphecidae of Egypt. After retiring from medicine, Sandro finally found enough time for entomology. On one of our trips, as we collected somewhere in the bush in the Ivory Coast, he told me "this is what I wanted to do all my life". He was able to rebuild his father's collection of aculeates that had become dispersed after World War II. He knew sphecids quite well, although he published practically nothing on them. His gift of languages never stopped impressing me. In addition to his native Italian, he spoke English, French, German, and Arabic, all of them very well. When in Egypt in 1993, I witnessed his conversations with local people a few times. They would ask him "Enta Saudi?" (are you a Saudi?). They did not take him for a European because of his command of the language.
Sandro was also quite generous. The following example illustrates this well: we were driving east toward Nakhl on the Sinai Peninsula, and a soldier stopped us at an isolated control post. After a few routine questions he asked for water (it was very hot that day, and he had had nothing to drink). We did not have any spare water with us, but after collecting, Sandro drove to the city, bought an extra bottle of water, and handed it to the soldier on our way back. Sandro was equally generous with his entomological colleagues, sharing his experience and providing valuable material for study.
I shall miss him dearly.