Alfred Rittmann

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Alfred Rittmann
Born 23 March 1893
Died 19 September 1980
Piazza Armerina, Sicily

Volcanology Institute, Napoli (1926-34)

University of Basel (1934-41)
Centro geominerario, Instituto della Recostruzione Industriale, Napoli (1941-44)
Centro Geologico Silano, Conzilio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Napoli (1944-48)
University of Alexandria (1949-53)
University of Cairo (1953-57)
Volcanology Institute, University of Catania (1958-63)
Istituto Internazionale di Vulcanologia, Catania (1960-68)
Alma mater University of Geneva (1922)
Doctoral advisor Louis Claude Duparc
Known for Die geologisch bedingte Evolution und Differentiation des Somma-Vesuvmagmas (1933), Orogénèse et volcanisme (1951), Volcanoes and their Activity (1962)

Alfred Rittmann was a world's leading volcanologist at his time. He was elected IAV President (IAV at that time) for three periods (1954–1963).


Rittmann was son of a dentist in Basel. He studied music and natural science at the University of Basel and later he changed to the University of Geneva. He received his PhD there (1922) for work on ultramafic rocks of the Ural.

Rittmann left Geneva to study with Antoine Lacroix in Paris, Friedrich Johann Karl Becke in Vienna, Ernst Anton Wülfing and Victor Mordechai Goldschmidt in Heidelberg. In 1926 the rich banker Immanuel Friedländer founded the Institute for Volcanology in Naples and Rittmann became leading scientist of the institute. His work focused on the Mount Vesuvius and on the island of Ischia. This resulted in his first great work: "Evolution und Differentiation des Somma-Vesuvmagmas" (Rittmann, 1933).

He drew the right conclusion that orogenic uplift volcanism (igneous rocks of the calc series), lacks alkaline basalts (igneous rocks of the sodic series). At the annual meeting of the German Geological Society in January 1939, he was right opposing the idea that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was an orogenic uplift by compression, and his opposition to disregard the Continental drift theory raised doubts. The work "Über den Zustand des Erdinnern und seine Entstehung aus einem homogenen Urzustand" (Kuhn and Rittmann, 1941) defended the non existence of an iron-nickel Earth core. His work "Orogénèse et volcanisme" (Rittmann, 1951) with collaboration of W. Kuhn demonstrated that crystalline mantle is able to creep under its pressure and temperature. His book "Vulkane und ihre Tätigkeit" was translated in five languages (2 ed.) and it was a standard work on volcanism.

His daughter Loredana Rittmann is too a volcanologist. He received the Gustav-Steinmann-Medaille (1965) and the doctor honoris causa from the University of Bern (1959). The mineral rittmannite (IMA 1987-048, 08.DH.15) was named in his honour.



...Mainly for morphological reasons, the view was expressed that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge was an embryonic folding of mountains. For similar reasons, it was suspected the existence of drowned mountains transverse to the Ridge that connect North Africa to Central America. These two assumptions seem to be contrary to all petrologists known fact (not theory!) that in the active orogenic uplift, magmas of the calc-alkali series ('Pacific igneous rocks') occur. In the Azores and the islands, of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, however, come to light typical lavas of sodic-alkali series ('Atlantic igneous rocks' sic!), which speaks for a more cratonic character of that crusts. It would be highly unlikely that just an invisible piece of folded mountains is an exception, as all the mountain heights, with volcanoes, and especially the submarine mountains (Kuril Islands, Ryukyu Islands, Aleutian Islands, the Antilles, etc.) have normally magmas of very pronounced 'Pacific' character. Consideration of such petrological and magmalogical knowledge is a necessity. The same applies to the established findings of Geophysics and especially of the seismic, which are often neglected also...

—Alfred Rittmann[1]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Rittmann, Alfred; Rittmann, Loredana (November 1982). Vulkane in Farbe. Suedwest Verlag. p. 128. ISBN 978-3517006246.  Note: posthumous.
  • Rittmann, Alfred; Gottini, V. (1981). "L'isola d'Ischia - Geologia". Bollettino del Servizio Geologico d'Italia 101: 131–274.  Note: posthumous.
  • Rittmann, Alfred (1981). Vulkane und ihre Tätigkeit (3 ed.). Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke Verlag.  Note: posthumous.
  • Rittmann, Alfred (1962). Volcanoes and their Activity. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 305, translated by EA Vincent from the 1960, 2 ed. 
  • Rittmann, Alfred (1958). "Zur Herkunft der Magmen". Geologische Rundschau 48: 1–10. Bibcode:1959GeoRu..48....1R. doi:10.1007/BF01801804. 
  • Rittmann, Alfred (December 1953). "Magmatic character and tectonic position of the Indonesia Volcanoes". Bulletin of Volcanology 14 (1): 45–58. Bibcode:1953BVol...14...45R. doi:10.1007/BF02596004. 
  • Rittmann, Alfred (December 1952). "Nomenclature of volcanic rocks". Bulletin of Volcanology 12 (1): 75–102. Bibcode:1952BVol...12...75R. doi:10.1007/BF02596015. 


  1. ^ Rittmann, Alfred (1939). "Bemerkungen zur 'Atlantis-Tagung' in Frankfurt im Januar 1939". Geologische Rundschau 30 (3): 284. Bibcode:1939GeoRu..30..284R. doi:10.1007/BF01804845. 
  • Pichler, Hans (February 1983). "Alfred Rittmann 1893–1980". Geologische Rundschau 72 (1): VII–XI. Bibcode:1983GeoRu..72D...7P. doi:10.1007/BF01765918. 
  • F. Ippolito and G. Marinelli (September 1981). "Alfred Rittmann". Bulletin of Volcanology 44 (3): 217–221. Bibcode:1981BVol...44..217I. doi:10.1007/BF02600560. 
  • Cristofolini, R. (1981). "Alfred Rittmann". Rendiconti della Società italiana di mineralogia e petrologia 37 (1): 15–21. 
  • Keller, Jörg and Niggli, Ernst (1980). "Alfred Rittmann : 1893-1980". Schweizerischen Mineralogischen und Petrographischen Mitteilungen 60: 305–309. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  • Kuhn, W.; Rittmann, A. (1941). "Über den Zustand des Erdinnern und seine Entstehung aus einem homogenen Urzustand". Geologische Rundschau 32 (3): 215–256. 
  • Rittmann, Alfred (1951). "Orogénèse et volcanisme". Archives des sciences (Géneve) (4–5): 273–314. 
  • Rittmann, Alfred (July 1933). "Die geologisch bedingte Evolution und Differentiation des Somma-Vesuvmagmas". Zeitschrift für Vulkanologie (Berlin: Reimer Verlag) 15 (1/2): 8–94. 
  • Alfred Rittmann in German, French and Italian in the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.