Betje Polak was born on 11th September 1901, in Amsterdam, the daughter of a teacher. Her father, who for many years combined his job with that of caring for the Insectarium in the zoological garden “Artis”, instilled in her a love of nature at an early age. Thus it was at his express wish that Betje attended a primary school further away from home, because the teaching staff included E. Heimans who later became famous as a popularizer of natural history. In Amsterdam Betje also attended secondary school and afterwards studied biology at the Municipal University of Amsterdam where she obtained her degree in 1926.