Kopfbild Historie KIT

History KIT - Applied Geosciences

Polytechnical School in 1836 at the "Lange Straße" (today´s Kaiserstraße),
planned by Heinrich Hübsch (Source: http://www.archiv.kit.edu/)

From “Polytechnical School” to the “KIT”

Grand Duke Friedrich I.
of Baden (Source: Reclams
Univ.: Weltrundschau 1902)

KIT is one of the oldest technical universities in Europe. Founded in 1825 as Badische Polytechnische Schule, it became the role model for other prestigious polytechnical schools such as ETH Zurich, TU Dresden, TU Braunschweig, TU Munich and RWTH Aachen. The founding director of MIT noted in 1864 that Carlsruhe Institute was nearer to what is intended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology than any other foreign institution. The Badische Polytechnische Schule was awarded the status of University of Technology in 1865 by the grand duke Friedrich I. of Baden (photo), and since 1902 is also called Fridericiana. The university introduced the final degrees Diplom in 1867 and Habilitation in 1868.

Geosciences was hosted in the faculty on natural- and human sciences from 1948 to 1966. After the portioning of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in 1969, Geosciences was hosted in the faculty of bio- and geosciences, and is since 2002 part of the faculty of civil engineering, geo- and environmental sciences. Geophysics was established in 1964 and since then is hosted in the faculty of physics. 2009 TH Karlsruhe and the Helmholtz Research Center (Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe) were merged to become the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT.

Geology and Mineralogy from the start in 1825
Friedrich A. Walchner
(Source: Stadtarchiv Karlsruhe)

Friedrich August Walchner (*1799 – †1865, s. photo) was the first geoscientist professor in Carlsruhe from 1825 to 1855. Together with his 11 colleagues, he built up the Polytechnic Institute Carlsruhe. First he taught chemistry, “Oryktognosie” (Mineralkunde, mineralogy) and “Geognosie” (the old German word for geology), from 1851 onwards only geology (Geognosie) and mineralogy. Karl Ludwig Fridolin von Sandberger (*1826 – †1898) was appointed professor of Geology and Mineralogy at the Polytechnic Institute at Karlsruhe from 1855 to 1863, before he left for a professorship at Würzburg university. Thus geosciences is an integral part of KIT since its foundation in the 19th century. Sandberger taught mineralogy, paleontology, geology and ore minerals. From 1863 to 1866 Karl Alfred Zittel (*1839 – †1904), a well-known paleontologist of that time, followed in his footsteps, and moved on to Munich university in 1866. There he was promoted a Bavarian knight “von Zittel”. Adolf Knop (*1829 – †1893) was appointed as professor of geology and mineralogy at TH Karlsruhe in 1866. Besides his research mainly on mineral chemistry and rock analytics, he was the founder of the OGV Oberrheinischer Geologischer Verein e.V. in 1871. Another important geoscientist at this time of more interdisciplinary research is Otto Lehmann, who succeeded Heinrich Hertz in 1889 on the chair for physics. He is well known by his experiments on crystal growth under the microscope and his studies on liquid crystals. The mineralogist R Brauns (*1861 – †1937), one of the leading German mineralogists of that time, headed the Chair of Geology and Mineralogy in 1894/1895 and moved to Giessen university in 1895. Carl Futterer (*1866 – †1906) followed on the chair (1895 – 1904), and shifted the formerly quantitative mineralogical approaches towards expedition-driven descriptive geology and paleontology research. He went on extensive field trips to Asia, and unfortunately died early at an age of 40. Wilhelm Paulcke (*1873 – †1949) held the chair for Geology and Mineralogy from 1905 to 1934, and became rector of TH Karlsruhe 1919 – 1920. Paulcke was an extraordinary mountaineer with several first ascents in the Silvretta. As a good skier he promoted the sport in public and founded the German Ski Union in 1905 and the university sport at KIT. His wide academic interests covered the mechanisms of avalanches, alpine tectonics, correlation of Swiss flysch using paleontology, as well as experimental structural geology (Paulcke, 1912, Das Experiment in der Geologie, 108 pp). From 1936 to 1945 the chair was held by Karl Georg Schmidt (*1902 – †1976), a student of Paulcke. Since 1946, the civil engineer Alfred Bilharz (*1884 – †1968) headed the chair by proxy after World War 2; he had worked on geological subjects since the mid-1920s. Billharz was suspended from his public servant position in Baden-Baden in 1933 to provisional retirement. In 1955, he became honorary professor at TH Karlsruhe. Dieter Hoenes (*1912 – †1955) took over the chair in 1950. Henning Illies (*1924 – †1982) followed on the Chair of Geology in 1958 and promoted the further expansion of existing professorships to geophysics, geochemistry and applied geology.

The spectrum of Appplied Geosciences widens

Illies was appointed in 1958 as adjunct professor and since 1963 chaired the Geological Institute (Allgemeine & Historische Geologie) at TH Karlsruhe, his main research on the Upper Rhine Graben (e.g. 1981 Book on “Mechanisms of Graben Formation”). Rolf Stellrecht (until 1993?) and Eberhard Sittig were associate professors under Illies who taught historical geology and paleontology. Since 1973 Illies was a member of Leopoldina, since 1978 an appointed editor of the journal Tectonophysics and an awarded Fellow of the Geological Society of America (GSA). Rudolf Metz worked with the Geological Institute since 1958, and after his habilitation in 1971 was awarded an adjunct professorship in 1983, he retired 1988. Gerhard H. Eisbacher  (*1935) headed the Geological Institute from 1985 to 2003 and focused on structural and regional geology. Eisbacher moved from the Canadian Geological survey to TH Karlsruhe and continued on Illies’ cooperation with the Geophysical Institute with work on the Rhine Graben, the Black Forest and other study areas worldwide. Sittig was succeeded by Wolfgang Stinnesbeck on the associated professorship on paleontology in 1994. Stinnesbeck moved from Karlsruhe to Heidelberg University in 2007. The Geological Institute with Gerhard Eisbacher was succeeded by Reinhard O. Greiling who moved with his Chair of Structural Geology and Tectonophysics and the rock magnetic lab in a rota with Stinnesbeck from Heidelberg University to Karlsruhe in 2007. The Institute was renamed Institute of Applied Geosciences, covering Engineering Geology, Hydrogeology, Petrology and Structural Geology. Greiling retired in 2014. Stinnesbeck’s and Greiling’s rota was based on the state’s evaluation of Geosciences in 2005/2006 with the restructuring of Geosciences in Baden-Württemberg, focusing on human-environmental aspects of geosciences in Heidelberg and Applied Geosciences at KIT. Christoph Hilgers is heading the division of structural geology since 2016.

The professorship of Applied Geology within the Geological Institute was established in 1965 by Prof. Viktor Maurin (*1922 – †2011), focusing on karst hydrogeology. Moving from Innsbruck, Austria, to Karlsruhe, Kurt Czurda (*1940) headed the chair of Applied Geology from 1985 to 2005 with a focus on Engineering Geology. Maurin’s assistant Heinz Hötzl (*1941) received his habilitation in 1972, and became adjunct professor in 1974. He was appointed associate professor for Hydrogeology in 1978 and retired in 2007. His research topic focused on hydrogeology with special emphasis on karst aquifers. Since 2011, the Division of Hydrogeology is headed by Nico Goldscheider. The Division of Engineering Geology is headed by Philipp Blum.

Geology and Mineralogy become two institutes

The Institute of Mineralogy was established in 1959 and headed by H. Jagodzinski, who retired in 1963. He was succeeded by Egon Althaus (*1933), who was appointed for Mineralogy and Experimental Petrology in 1971. Althaus was the Dean of the faculty of Bio- and Geosciences from 1972 to 1974. Werner Smykatz-Kloss (*1938) became associate professor for sedimentary petrology at the Institute of Mineralogy in the 1970s and retired in 2003/2004. He acted as Dean of the Faculty of Bio- and Geosciences in 1996 and 1997. Egon Althaus was succeeded by Doris Stüben (*1955), and after her early retirement Thomas Neumann headed the institute from 2008 to 2016 by proxy.

The Institute of Petrography and Geochemistry was established in 1969 with the appointment of Harald Puchelt (*1929 – †2004). Puchelt worked on Aquatic and Environmental Geochemistry. Prof. Gerd Rein (*1913 – †1972) was appointed Professor in Petrography from 1965 to 1973. Rainer Altherr (*1947) was appointed in 1982 for Petrology and moved the Heidelberg University in 1994. The Institute of Mineralogy and the Institute of Petrography and Geochemistry were merged to become the Institute of Mineralogy and Geochemistry with appointment of Doris Stüben. Altherr was succeeded by Heinz-Günter Stosch (*1950) in 1995, who retired in 2016. Many German students know Stosch well from his Introduction to Isotope Geology (in German), one of his excellent online textbooks he distributes for free on the web. Stosch is succeeded by Armin Zeh, who is appointed professor for the division of Petrology at KIT since 2015.

Higher visibility - one institute with 7 chairs

The range of applied geosciences at KIT was further expanded by the endowed chair of the division Technical Petrophysics with Frank Schilling (funded by Herrenknecht) in 2009 and the endowed chair of the division Geothermics with Thomas Kohl (funded by EnBW) in 2010. In 2015, the Institute of Mineralogy and Geochemistry merged with the Institute of Applied Geosciences (the chairs of Engineering Geology, Geothermics, Hydrogeology, Petrophysics, Petrology, Structural Geology) at KIT. The institute’s cooperative management is now headed by an executive director. In 2016 Jochen Kolb was appointed professor for the division Geochemistry and Economic Geology. 

History of Related Institutes: Geophysical Institute and the Institute of Crystallography

The Geophysical Institute was established in 1964, initiated by the civil engineer professor Hans Leussink (*1912 – †2008) from the Institute of Rock Mechanics, rector of the Friderciana and federal minister of Education and Research from 1969-1972. Stephan Müller (1930 – †1997) became the Geophysical Institute’s first appointed professor at TH Karlsruhe from 1964 to 1971. He was Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences 1968 and 1969. Due to the partitioning of the faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences in 1969, the Geophysical Institute moved to the Faculty of Physics upon Leussink’s recommendation. Müller moved to ETH Zürich with most of his staff in 1971. Karl Fuchs (*1932) followed Müller as director of the Geophysical Institute at TH Karlsruhe and held the chair in geophysics from 1971 to 1997. In 1994, Friedemann Wenzel took over the chair of General Geophysics from Karl Fuchs and continued with a well-established research team. Andreas Rietbrock followed Wenzel in 2017. A second chair was established on Applied Geophysics in 1983, which was headed by Peter Hubral until 2007. Hubral’s work on exploration seismology was honored by SEG in 2013 with the Maurice Ewig medal. Thomas Bohlen followed Hubral in 2009. 

Heinz Draheim (*1915 – †2012) was professor of the Institute for Geodesy from 1960-1983?) and rector of Friderciana from 1968-1983. Together with Karl Fuchs and Henning Illies they co-founded the Black Forest Observatory, which until today is jointly operated by the Institute of Geodesy and the Institute of Geophysics. During this period, a strong cooperation of the Institutes of Geology (then hosted in the faculty of bio- and geosciences), Geophysics (hosted in the faculty of physics), and Geodesy (hosted in the faculty of civil engineering) resulted in successful research projects across faculties, e.g. SFB Rock Mechanics (Felsmechanik), SP Uplift of the Rhenish Shield (Hebung des Rheinischen Schildes), SFB Stress and Stress Release in the Lithosphere (Spannung und Spannungsumwandlung in der Lithosphäre), SFB Strong Earthquakes (Starkbeben), known in the community as “the spirit of Karlsruhe”.  The results of the research program Stress and Stress Release in the Lithosphere are now known as the World Stress Map

The former Institute of Crystallography was established in 1964 with the appointment of Hans Wondrascheck (*1925 – †2014), who retired in 1991. After the partitioning of the Mathematics-Natural Science faculty in 1969 Wondrascheck moved to the faculty of physics, and was succeeded by Kurt Hümmer. After Hümmer’s early retirement and that of associate professor W.E. Klee the institute was closed.

Text: Christoph Hilgers

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