Institute of Applied Geosciences

From the Mining Academy Berlin to the geoscientific institutes of the TU Berlin

In 1770, the prussian King Friedrich II ("the Great"; 1717-1786) issued a cabinet order to "make a pleasing decree that not only historical and practical mineralogy, but also mining law in particular be properly taught at all royal universities" to train specialists in the exploitation of the raw material deposits of the prussian empire in their own country. The Royal Mining Academy Berlin was later founded at the suggestion of the senior mining councilor C.A. Gerhard. In 1781, the state bought Gerhard's extensive mineralogical collection for the teaching of geosciences: the foundation of the Mineralogical Collections of today's TU Berlin. Then, as now, geosciences were essentially "object-based teaching".

Under the prussian minister and senior mining captain F.A. von Heinitz, the Mining Academy attained its true importance in 1777, just as other educational and training institutions in Berlin advanced to become international role models. Carl Abraham Gerhard (1738-1821) was appointed as the first lecturer at the Mining Academy.

Since the founding of the University of Berlin in 1810 (today Humboldt University), the directors of the "Mineralogical Cabinet" were simultaneously lecturers at the Mining Academy and the University.

Christian Samuel Weiss, Prof. of Mineralogy at the Mining Academy and the University of Berlin, founded crystallography as a science discipline in 1810 by introducing crystallographic axis crosses and mathematically based indexing of crystal surfaces.

His student and successor Gustav Rose used this as a basis to produce mathematically exact crystal wood models based on natural mineral models. In 1829, together with Alexander von Humboldt, he travelled to the Urals, the Altai Mountains, etc. and discovered numerous new mineral deposits, which he published in an extensive travel report. As early as 1852, he created the basis of microscopic petrography by studying thin sections of rocks.

As professor of mineralogy at the Mining Academy, Christian Ernst Weiss continued the work of his uncle Christian Samuel Weiss, mapped as a regional geologist in the Saarland and the Thuringian Forest, known above all for his hard coal research and pioneering as a phytopalaeontologist.

As director of the Mining Academy, the mineralogist Wilhelm Hauchecorne founded the Prussian Geological Survey (now in the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources), and his geological survey of Prussia at a scale of 1:25,000 together with Beyrich became an international model.

In 1916, the Mining Academy was merged with the Königliche Technische Hochschule Berlin (KTH, today TU Berlin), which had already been founded in 1879. Outstanding personalities were:

  • Julius Hirschwald, Professor of Mineralogy and Geology, was a co-founder of the Technische Universität, created the most important collection of technically usable mineral raw materials at the time and the Mineralogical Museum of the Technische Universität. He set up a pioneering laboratory for technical rock testing (today merged into the Federal Institute for Materials Testing).
  • Carl Friedrich Rammelsberg, professor of chemistry at the University and the TH Berlin and co-founder of the German Chemical Society, is known for his mineral chemistry and mineral analysis. The mineralogical collection he built up at the Royal Trade Academy was merged with that of the TH Berlin after unification.
  • Robert Scheibe discovered important copper and vanadium deposits, the large Kolmanskuppe diamond deposits and large quantities of iron meteorites near Gibeon during a research trip to Southwest Africa (Namibia) in 1908 on behalf of the German Kaiser.

After the Second World War, the Technische Hochschule was re-founded as Technische Universität in 1946, with an enormous upswing in geoscientific subjects.

After the appointment of Prof. Dr. Dr. Hugo Strunz in 1951 as full professor for mineralogy and crystallography, the new building for mining and metallurgy was occupied in 1959 under his deanship, financed by the mining industry. The Mineralogical Museum he established in the building is today one of the five largest and most important mineralogical collections in Germany. Hugo Strunz became known worldwide for his internationally used mineral systematics; the "Mineralogical Tables" and "Klockmanns Lehrbuch für Mineralogie" (Klockmann's Textbook for Mineralogy), which were written with considerable detailed work by Prof. Christel Tennyson, are considered standard mineralogical literature.

Text: Susanne Herting-Agthe