About Writing, History, Science and Health

A Couple Truly Made for Each Other

They were creators, writers, scientists, and travelers. And if you have read a book in your childhood about a Native American tribe or one of the old scientific Golden Guide volumes, you’ve probably read something written by one of them.

Herbert Spencer Zim, or Herbert S. Zim, was born on July 12th, 1909, in New York City. He attended Columbia University where he earned his degrees of Bachelor of Science and Master of Science, as well as his Ph.D. He was a naturalist and an author to boot. Zim founded the Golden Guide nature books in 1945, the same year that World War II was historically brought to a close. He was also the editor-in-chief of this illustrated book series which was mainly targeted toward a juvenile audience.

He has over one hundred book titles to which he has either contributed or written entirely himself. Zim wrote extensively for the Golden Guides, contributing to nearly every single one of the books which covered such topics as stars, dinosaurs, stones and gems, zoology, and others.

Herbert S. Zim

In addition to this, Zim was an educator for a period of some three decades. He is responsible for integrating the practice of lab instruction into elementary school science, which tends to be helpful for those who desire to pursue a scientific career when they enter college. He was even an associate professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 1950 to 1954. Zim, an obviously talented man who enjoyed teaching younger generations, passed away on December 5th, 1994, twenty-three years after the death of his first wife Sonia.

Sonia Bleeker was born on November 28th, 1909, in Starchevicvhi, Russia, less than half a year after the birth of her future spouse. She achieved her Bachelor of the Arts degree via Hunter College in New York City, graduating from the college in 1933. She performed graduate anthropology work at Columbia University, the college Herbert Zim attended. In 1934, the year following her graduation from Hunter College, the couple were married. Starting in 1931, Bleeker was an editor for Simon and Schuster for fifteen years.


Sonia and Herbert


Sonia got her first book, Indians of the Longhouse, published in 1950. At least 25 more informative books followed, all penned by Mrs. Zim. She and Herbert traveled around the globe for years while conducting research and jotting down notes for Sonia’s books. Continents outside North America which the couple traveled to together included South America, Europe, and Africa. When not going on working excursions, the couple rested at their home near Key Largo, Florida.

Mrs. Zim’s main book series was, like her husband’s Golden Guide series, geared toward the youth, concerning Native American and African tribes as well as several pre-Columbian nations. The New York Herald Tribune once called her out her books as a ”series of dependable, factual books.” In 1967, Sonia Bleeker was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Beloit College in Wisconsin. In 1970, the couple collaborated on Sonia’s final work, a book called Life and Death. The very next year Sonia passed away in her early sixties.

As you should be able to tell from the brief rundown of their active lives, the two seemed to be made for one another. The two of them had practically all the same interests, worked passionately at their careers, worked well together in so many ways, taught young generations who were thirsty for knowledge, and spent a lot of time writing. I wonder if they would have been able to accomplish as much as they did if they did not do it together.

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