Eduard Suess, 1869
August 20, 1831|
|Died||April 26, 1914
|Resting place||Marz, Austria
|Alma mater||University of Vienna|
|Known for||Gondwana, Tethys Ocean|
|Spouse||Hermine née Strauss|
|Children||5 sons, 1 daughter|
Eduard Suess (August 20, 1831 – April 26, 1914) was an Austrian geologist who was an expert on the geography of the Alps. He is responsible for hypothesising two major former geographical features, the supercontinent Gondwana (proposed in 1861) and the Tethys Ocean.
Eduard Suess was born on August 20, 1831 in London, England, the oldest son of a Lutheran Saxon merchant. When he was three, his family relocated to Prague, and then to Vienna when he was 14. Interested in geology at a young age, he published his first paper—on the geology of Carlsbad, now in the Czech Republic—when he was 19. In 1855, Suess married Hermine Strauss, the daughter of a prominent physician from Prague. Their marriage produced five sons and one daughter.
By 1857, he was a professor of geology at the University of Vienna, and from there he gradually developed views on the connection between Africa and Europe. Eventually he concluded that the Alps to the north were once at the bottom of an ocean, of which the Mediterranean was a remnant. Suess was not correct in his analysis, which was predicated upon the notion of "contractionism"—the idea that the Earth is cooling down and, therefore, contracting. Nevertheless, he is credited with postulating the earlier existence of the Tethys Ocean, which he named in 1893. He claimed in 1885 that there had once been land bridges connecting South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica. He named this ancient broken continent Gondwanaland.
Suess published a comprehensive synthesis of his ideas between 1885 and 1901 titled Das Antlitz der Erde (The Face of the Earth), which was a popular textbook for many years. In volume two of this massive three-volume work, Suess set out his belief that across geologic time, the rise and fall of sea levels were mappable across the earth—that is, that the periods of ocean transgression and regression were correlatable from one continent to another. His theory was based upon glossopteris fern fossils occurring in South America, Africa, and India. His explanation was that the three lands were once connected in a supercontinent, which he named Gondwanaland. Again, this is not quite correct: Suess believed that the oceans flooded the spaces currently between those lands.
One thing seems to be foreign on this large celestial body consisting of spheres, namely, organic life. But this life is limited to a determined zone at the surface of the lithosphere. The plant, whose deep roots plunge into the soil to feed, and which at the same time rises into the air to breathe, is a good illustration of organic life in the region of interaction between the upper sphere and the lithosphere, and on the surface of continents it is possible to single out an independent biosphere.
He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1895 and he won the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in 1903. Suess died on April 26, 1914 in Vienna, Austria. He is buried in the town of Marz in Burgenland, Austria.
Suess is considered one of the early practitioners of ecology. The crater Suess on the Moon and a crater on Mars are named after him. His son, Franz Eduard Suess (1867–1942), was superintendent and geologist at the Imperial Geological Institute in Vienna.
- Über die Brachiopoden der Kössener Schichten (1854)
- Der Boden der Stadt Wien (1862)
- Die Entstehung der Alpen (1875)
- Das Antlitz der Erde in three volumes (1885–1909)
- Erinnerungen (1916)
- Kemp, J.F. (1914). "Science: Edward Suess". The Nation (New York: New York Evening Post) 98 (2553): 671. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
- Suess, Eduard (1885-1909). Das Antlitz der Erde. F. Tempsky, Vienna, OCLC 2903551, Note: volume 3 was published in two parts.
- Smil, Vaclav. 2002. The earth's biosphere : evolution, dynamics, and change. MIT.
- Geological Maps of Europe