In memory of Fr Richard W. Timm, a great zoologist and missionary
by Sumon Corraya

The Holy Cross priest was a missionary in Bangladesh for 71 years. He died four days ago at the age of 97. He discovered at least 250 species of nematodes. He was committed to education, science, the poor and human rights. In 1987 he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Asian Nobel Prize.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Fr Richard William Timm, a missionary with the Holy Cross Institute, passed away last Friday at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA), at the age of 97.

Fr Timm was a legend in Bangladesh. An internationally renowned zoologist, he discovered at least 250 species of nematodes, roundworms found in wet soils or water.

As a friend of the country, he was an educator, author of many books and publications, committed to social development, and winner of the Magsaysay prize (the Asian Nobel Prize).

Fr James C. Cruze, superior of Holy Cross, remembers him as “a great friend of Bangladesh, who loved the people of this land. He did not receive any government recognition, but Bangladeshi Catholics loved him very much.”

Fr Timm was born in Michigan City on 2 March 1923. He was ordained a priest in 1949. After completing his studies, including a degree from the Catholic University of Washington DC, he arrived in Dhaka in November 1952 to work for Notre Dame College.

He immediately opened a science department and a debate club shortly thereafter to help students assimilate knowledge through discussions. He later also opened a Science Club.

He has discovered at least 250 species of nematodes, including the timmia parva, a marine nematode named after him. And his tome on biology has been used in the country for many years.

He was honoured for his contribution to Bangladesh’s War of Liberation,

As a zoologist, he spent most of his time in the lab. But after the great cyclone of 1970 and the War of Liberation of 1971, he left everything to devote himself to relief and reconstruction work.

He spent many months on Manpura Island to save the lives of the poor and abandoned. This period changed his life.

Upon returning to Dhaka, he never returned to his educational role in the college, but got involved with Caritas Bangladesh and Justice and Peace, supporting human rights.

Understanding the need for non-governmental organizations, he formed an association, the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB).

To support the human rights, he set up a Coordinating Council for Human Rights in Bangladesh (CCHRB).

His views and articles were published in Bangladesh and other countries. For all of this, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1987.

His confreres remember him as a man of strong faith and a good Catholic priest who served Bangladesh and the Church for 71 years.

During his stay in the country he edited the Dhaka Letter. He was also a historian, a writer for his institute and a spiritual director. One of the buildings of Notre Dame College was renamed after him.