Johann Gottfried Tulla

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Monument to Tulla and the Rhine correction

Johann Gottfried Tulla (born 20 March 1770 in Karlsruhe; died 27 March 1828 in Paris) was a German engineer, who in the nineteenth century accomplished the straightening of the Rhine, improving navigation and alleviating the effects of flooding. His measures gave the upper Rhine a completely new appearance. The river was deepened and channeled between embankments, new sections were dug to straighten out the river's original meandering course, and numerous small islands were removed. The effect was to reduce the river's length between Basel and Worms from 355 km to 275 km (220 to 170 miles).[1] The straightening of the upper Rhine dramatically increased the flood risk in the region of the middle and lower Rhine.[2]


Tulla began his training in 1792 with Karl Christian von Langsdorf. In 1795 he began to study chemistry and mineralogy at the Mining Academy in Freiberg, Saxony. Subsequently, he was transferred to the government service in Baden. Further training in Paris followed in 1801, but he was called back to Karlsruhe after a year. There he was appointed to the rank of captain in 1803. Starting in 1807 he worked in Switzerland on the channeling project on the Linth river. Also in 1807 he was one of the founders of the school of engineering, which was the predecessor of the University of Karlsruhe. He was promoted several times in subsequent years, in 1809 to major and in 1814 to lieutenant colonel. In 1817 he was appointed director of the Oberdirektion des Wasser- und Straßenbaues (Command of water- and road construction). In this office he was instrumental in planning the stabilizing and straightening of the course of the upper Rhine, a huge river engineering project that continued until 1879, long after his death. The appointment to officer of the French Légion d'honneur followed in 1827; one year later Tulla died of the consequences of malaria.

Tulla was buried at the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. His gravestone shows the so-called "Altrip corner", one of the technically most difficult sections of the Rhine straightening, near the Palatinate village of Altrip.


  1. ^ Crump, T. A brief history of the Age of Steam. Robinson, London, 2007
  2. ^ Blackbourn, D. The Conquest of Nature. Water, Landscape and the Making of Moder Germany. Random House, London, 2006