Boll, Jacob (1828–1880)

By: Clinton P. Hartmann

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: March 31, 2016

Jacob (Jakob) Boll, naturalist, was born in Bremgarten, Aargau, Switzerland, on May 29, 1828. He received his education in Switzerland and Germany and married Henriette Humbel in 1854. He bought a pharmacy in Bremgarten, collected specimens of the flora of his canton, and published a book on his findings in 1869. The same year Boll came to Texas, stopping on his way at Harvard to visit Louis Agassiz, who suggested that Boll go to Texas to collect animals for the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. He collected in Texas during 1870 and returned to Harvard to be assistant custodian in the museum. In the spring of 1871 he returned to Switzerland, taking species of American wild silkworm for experimentation, and while there his cantonal government commissioned him to collect mollusks and seeds of woody plants of Texas. In October he returned to Harvard, made a collection of insects of New England, and was elected a member of the Boston Society of Natural History on January 3, 1872. Back in Switzerland in March, he made a botanical exploration of the Albula Pass, for which he was elected to membership in the Academia Caesarea Leopoldino-Carolina Naturae Curiosorum of Germany. After his wife's death in August 1873 Boll returned to the Harvard museum and in the spring of 1874 settled in Dallas, Texas.

In 1876, while on a field trip collecting specimens of the Colorado potato beetle for his cantonal government, he discovered fossil animals in the rocks of the Wichita River country. In 1877 he was appointed to work with the United States Entomological Commission for the study of the Rocky Mountain locust. Between 1877 and 1880, while collecting for Edward D. Cope, Boll found thirty-two new, rare species of Permian vertebrates, including stegocephalian amphibians and theromorph reptiles, land forms that were embedded in deltas of Texas rivers. At the same time he made an extensive collection of tiny butterflies and moths (microlepidoptera), as well as Texas reptiles, batrachia (tailless amphibians), and fish. In an article for the American Naturalist of September 1880, he first identified scientifically the Permian rocks of Texas. Boll died on an expedition in Wilbarger County on September 29, 1880.

Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Scribner, 1929). S. W. Geiser, Naturalists of the Frontier (Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1937; 2d ed. 1948).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Science
  • Scientists and Researchers
  • Swiss
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Clinton P. Hartmann, “Boll, Jacob,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

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March 31, 2016

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