Walter Georg Kühne

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Walter Georg Kühne (February 26, 1911, Berlin – March 16, 1991) was a German paleontologist, known as a "legendary explorer of Mesozoic mammals".[1] In 1958 he founded the Berlin Institute for Paleontology of the Free University of Berlin. His studies focused specifically on mesozoic microfauna, seeking to bring to light the history of the oldest mammals, which until the 1960s was almost unknown. Before him, findings of species of small size in the continental Mesozoic deposits had been mostly random. His efforts were concentrated more in excavations in lignite mines which he considered as preferred deposits for the remains of terrestrial vertebrates. Thanks to his efforts new species could be described that were interpreted as the most primitive mammals as Morganucodon and Kuehneotherium, as well the proto-mammal Oligokyphus.

He was the first to discover the immense paleontological heritage of the famous Guimarota lignite mine in Portugal to start methodological, accurate excavations in the area.[2]

[A. W.] Crompton tells the story of a German refugee named Walter Kuhne, who at the start of World War II walked into Cambridge University with teeth from a borderline mammal. "I know where to discover early mammals," he told the British paleontologist F. R. Parrington. Parrington was impressed enough to offer him £5 (about $35 then) for every additional tooth he brought to the university.[3]


  1. ^ page 169 in Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, Richard L. Cifelli, and Zhe-Xi Luo, Mammals from the Age of Dinosaurs: Origins, Evolution, and Structure, Columbia University Press, New York, 2004 ISBN 0-231-11918-6
  2. ^ The Excavations of Guimarota, Upper Jurassic of Portugal at the Wayback Machine (archived October 26, 2009)
  3. ^ William J. Cromie, "Oldest mammal is found", Harvard Gazette, May 24, 2001
  • Rolf Kohring, "Walter Georg Kühne, 1911-1991" News Bulletin of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology volume 153(1991) pages 46–47.
  • Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (2013). "Walter G. Kühne". In Pursuit of Early Mammals. Life of the Past. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 74–77. ISBN 978-0-253-00824-4. 
  • Much of this page is a translation from the Italian Wikipedia entry for the subject.