University of Arizona

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Papers of Frank Bené

Hummingbird Drinking Syrup from Glas Held by Kitty P., undated

Frank Bené was born June 11, 1905 in Isaszeg, Hungary and emigrated to the U.S. just over a year later. His family settled in Bethlehem, PA where Bené attended grade school and high school. After spending some time out west, he returned to Pennsylvania and graduated with honors from Lehigh University in 1933, and eventually received a masters degree in education from the same institution. In June 1933, he was married to Katharine Johnson. Bené worked as an instructor in social studies in the Adult Evening School in Bethlehem for one year and in 1935 was named county supervisor of Americanization in charge of literacy and citizenship for foreign-born residents of Northampton County. For the following four years he taught, published, and worked in the field of citizenship training while pursing his interest in adult education.

As a result of failing health, Frank Bené moved to Phoenix, AZ in 1937. It was at this time that a serious interest in ornithology began. Over the next five years, he read, investigated, and wrote a number of articles, particularly short papers for The Condor (1940, 1941, 1945) along with the memoir entitled The Feeding and Related Behavior of Hummingbirds, which won the Walker Prize of the Boston Society of Natural History in 1942.

An improvement in health permitted Frank to teach science for a year in New Jersey. In January 1943, he returned to Arizona and took a faculty position at Arizona State Teachers College in Tempe, instructing U.S. Army cadets at the Pre-Flight School. However, the inadequately diagnosed tubercular illness Frank suffered from became increasingly acute and he resigned his position in October and died in Phoenix on December 18, 1943.

This collection consists chiefly of biographical materials, photographs, published works, and research materials relating to observations and writings on hummingbirds in Arizona. The collection includes a box of envelopes of photographs and negatives of hummingbirds.