Eduard Suess, Prof.

20.8.1831 – 26.4.1914
born in London, United Kingdom died in Wien, Austria

Eduard Suess is considered the founder of modern geology in Austria.


Ehrung Titel Datierung Fakultät
Commemorative Plaque of Faculty 1950 Faculty of Philosophy

Rektor Richard Meister regte im Oktober 1949 an, wieder Namen von berühmten Mitgliedern des Lehrkörpers in die Ehrentafeln der Fakultäten im Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien einzutragen. Zu diesem Zweck ersuchte er die Dekane, diese Frage in einer Fakultätssitzung zu besprechen und dem Senat Vorschläge zu unterbreiten.

Der Dekan der Philosophischen Fakultät Hans Leitmeier schlug am 25. Februar 1950 entsprechend eines Beschlusses des Professorenkollegiums vor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Julius HannRichard HeinzelJosef Loschmidt, Ernst MachFranz MiklosichLeo Reinisch, Theodor SickelJosef Stefan und Eduard Suess für die Eintragung auf der Ehrentafel vorzuschlagen.

Die Vorschläge der Dekanate wurden in der Sitzung des Akademischen Senats vom 4. März 1950 vorgelegt und einstimmig angenommen. Am 25. März 1950 wurde der Auftrag zur Eingravierung und Vergoldung von 21 Namen auf die vier Ehrentafeln der Fakultäten erteilt und im Mai 1950 umgesetzt.

In October 1949, Rector Richard Meister suggested that the names of famous members of the teaching staff should once again be inscribed on the honorary plaques of the faculties in the main building of the University of Vienna. To this end, he asked the deans to discuss this issue at a faculty meeting and submit proposals to the Senate.

On February 25, 1950, the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Hans Leitmeier, proposed Ludwig Boltzmann, Julius Hann, Richard Heinzel, Josef Loschmidt, Ernst Mach, Franz Miklosich, Leo Reinisch, Theodor Sickel, Josef Stefan and Eduard Suess for inscription on the roll of honor in accordance with a resolution passed by the College of Professors.

The deans' proposals were presented at the meeting of the Academic Senate on March 4, 1950 and unanimously accepted. On March 25, 1950, the order to engrave and gild 21 names on the four honorary plaques of the faculties was placed and implemented in May 1950.

Gate of Remembrance Suess-Tor 1998/99
Room Name Eduard-Suess-Saal (UZA II) 2016 Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography and Astronomy


Dean Faculty of Philosophy 1873/74
Rector Faculty of Philosophy 1888/89

He was born in the English capital on August 20, 1831, the son of Adolph Suess, who had run a wool business in London since 1828, and his wife Eleonore, née Zdekauer, a banker's daughter from Prague. The family moved to Vienna in 1834, where Suess attended the Clementinum for five years. In 1846, he completed his grammar school education at the Akademisches Gymnasium and began studying at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute (now the Technical University). When the revolutionary events of 1848 swept over the Habsburg monarchy and its capital, the 16-year-old joined the revolutionaries and joined the Academic Legion.

In October 1848, Suess left troubled Vienna and went to Prague to continue his studies at the Polytechnic there. Frequent visits to the Prague National Museum and excursions to the city's fossil-rich surroundings awakened Suess's interest in palaeontology, a passion that would stay with him into old age. After returning to Vienna in 1849, Suess devoted himself to a study on the graptolites of the Bohemian Silurian, which was published in 1851 as his first scientific work.

In 1852 Suess became an assistant at the k.k. Hofmineralienkabinett (now part of the Natural History Museum in Vienna), where he was the first Austrian researcher to focus on the classification of fossil mammals.

Suess became famous for his research within a few years and in 1857 applied for the venia legendi for palaeontology at the University of Vienna.However, the Faculty of Philosophy rejected his application due to his lack of a doctorate.An immediate application to the Minister of Culture, Count Leo von Thun-Hohenstein, was successful. Thun appointed Suess as an extraordinary, unpaid professor of palaeontology.This meant that in 1857 the first chair for this subject was created at an Austrian university.

In 1862, Suess left the Court Mineral Cabinet and went to the university as Associate Professor of Geology, where he was appointed Ordinarius in 1867 and remained scientifically active until his retirement in 1901.

In the 1860s, Suess worked on researching the geological conditions of Vienna. His main focus was on the then virulent issue of the city's water supply. In order to improve the catastrophic hygienic conditions, the city of Vienna formed a twelve-member water supply commission, of which Eduard Suess was also a member from 1863. Despite numerous obstacles, construction of Vienna's first high-level spring water pipeline began in 1870, drawing water from the Limestone Alps in the Lower Austrian-Styrian border region. On October 24, 1873, the ceremonial opening took place at the Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain on Schwarzenbergplatz.

Suess's second major practical geology project was the regulation of the Danube. After lengthy negotiations, it was decided to create a new riverbed, which went into operation on April 19, 1875 after five years of construction.

After his work for the city of Vienna, Suess increasingly turned to global geological research.In 1875, he published „The Origin of the Alps“. In this study, Suess set out his view of the formation of the chain mountains, which was revolutionary at the time, and thus developed key elements of the blanket theory.

In his four-volume work „The Face of the Earth“ (1883–1909), Suess expanded the laws he had discovered in the European chain mountains and extended them to the development and formation of our entire planet: Suess provides an overall view of the age-related structure of the chain mountains, the demarcation of the continental shelves, the great expansions and retreats of the seas, the movements of the earth's crust in general and, finally, the regional geology of the earth in general. The interest in this monumental work was so great that it was published in French (1897–1918) and English (1904–1924).

In general, Suess' work revolutionized the methodological perspective in the Viennese earth sciences: Geognosy, which was based purely on the classification of what was observed, became modern geology, which operated with a critical-rational way of thinking and took into account the historical dimension of the earth's development. In the field of methodology, the Vienna School of Geology and Palaeontology, founded by Suess, has achieved the highest international reputation through the combination of careful detailed study and a comparative global approach.

In addition to Suess' academic work, his political activities as a liberal representative of the people, who was able to set numerous trends in the second half of the 19th century, also deserve attention. He served as a Liberal representative in the Vienna Municipal Council (1863–1873), the Lower Austrian Parliament (1869–1873) and the Austrian Imperial Council (1873–1897).

Due to his mother Eleonore's Jewish ancestry, Suess had already been exposed to anti-Semitic accusations as a political mandatary since the early 1880s. When he was elected Rector of Vienna University on September 21, 1888, Suess was unable to withstand the constant attacks by anti-Semitic German fraternities, which had already boycotted his inauguration. He resigned from the rectorship in March 1889, only a few months after taking office.

Due to his outstanding scientific achievements, Eduard Suess was a member of numerous domestic and foreign scientific institutions. His work for the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna deserves special mention. Suess became a corresponding member in 1860 and a full member in 1867. From 1885 he was secretary of the mathematical-scientific class, from 1893 vice president and from 1898 to 1911 he was president of the academy.

Eduard Suess's tomb is located at the Marz cemetery in Burgenland.

He was honored in 1998 by the naming of one of the „Gates of Remembrance“ on the campus of the University of Vienna (Suess Gate, passageway from court 1 to court 7).

Johannes Seidl

Zuletzt aktualisiert am 03/01/24