Gustav Bischof

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"Karl Bischof" redirects here. For the SS officer, see Karl Bischoff.
Gustav Bischof
Born (1792-01-18)January 18, 1792
Nuremberg, Bavaria
Died November 30, 1870(1870-11-30) (aged 78)
Bonn, Germany
Fields Chemical geology
Institutions University of Bonn
Alma mater Erlangen
Notable awards Wollaston Medal
Lehrbuch der chemischen und physikalischen geologie, 1847-1854

Karl Gustav Bischof (January 18, 1792 – November 30, 1870) was a German chemist, born in Nuremberg, Bavaria. He studied at Erlangen where he became a university tutor. In 1819 he became an extra-Ordinary Professor of Chemistry at Bonn, and in 1822 a full professor.[1]:202 The University of Bonn was a leading center for geologists including Ferdinand von Roemer, Georg August Goldfuss, and Gerhard vom Rath as well as Bischof.[1]:147

Scientific Achievements[edit]

Bischof himself has been considered the founder of chemical geology.[1]:327 More a chemist than a geologist, he introduced chemical analysis into widespread use in geology. His Lehrbuch der chemischen und physikalischen Geologie (Bonn: Marcus, 1847−1866) was the standard text of geochemistry and a classic reference work. The first volume (in 2 parts) considers the actions of water both on the earth and internal to it, including the temperature, chemical composition and effects of springs on rocks around them.[1]:202, 327 His was the first account to scientifically address springs.[1]:200 Volume II (in 7 parts) discusses mineralogy, petrology, and the origin of rocks. He describes the chemical composition, structure, texture, and the chemical and mechanical forces involved in the decomposition of minerals and rocks, including the effects of decomposing organic remains. In doing so, he created a new branch of geology.[1]:202, 239 Bischof's work was highly valuable for its extensive and careful chemical analyses. Bischof was less successful in the interpretations he placed on his results, as he supported theories of Neptunism, later disproved.[1]:327, 343

Addressing dynamical geology, he noted that substances such as carbonic acid, hydrochloric acid, and other gases as well as water vapor played a part in volcanic eruptions.[1]:279 By studying the cooling of large balls of melted basalt, Bischof estimated the possible cooling time of the planet earth, arriving at a value of 350 million years.[1]:168 He also experimented with variations in cooling temperature, observing that manipulations of temperature and pressure during cooling could lead to the formation of different crystalline forms.[1]:347 He suggested that the both asphalt and petroleum were likely derived from decaying plant matter,[1]:254 and predicted that the effects of air, heat and pressure might explain the formation of different types of coal.[1]:241-242 He studied experimented on inflammable gases such as those found in coal mines. [2] He experimented with the development of safety-lamps and wrote an essay on the avoidance of explosions in mines.[3]


Bischof was awarded the Wollaston Medal in 1863 by the Geological Society of London.[4] The society's highest award, it is given for "significant influence by means of a substantial body of excellent research in either or both pure and applied aspects of the science" of geology.[5]

Gustav Bischof died in Bonn on November 30, 1870.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Zittel, Karl Alfred von (1901). History of geology and palæontology to the end of the nineteenth century. London, W. Scott: New York, C. Scribner's Sons. ISBN 9781175773692. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Bischof, Gustav (1840). "Physical and chemical examination of three inflammable gases which are evolved in coal-mines". The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal: Exhibiting A View Of The Progressive Discoveries And Improvements In The Sciences And The Arts. 29, 30: 309–333, 127–153. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  3. ^ The New Werner Twentieth Century Edition of the Encyclopaedia. 25. Werner Company. 1906. p. 484. 
  4. ^ "Awards of the Wollaston medal". The Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London. Session 1875-1876: 37. 1876. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Wollaston Medal". NNDB Tracking the Entire World. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  6. ^ Amstutz, G.C. (1970–80). "Biscof, Carl Gustav Christoph". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 158–159. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9.