Abraham Gottlob Werner

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AG Werner, engraving by Friedrich Rosmäsler (1775–1858) after Karl Friedrich Demiani (1768–1823)
Abraham Gottlob Werner

Abraham Gottlob Werner (born September 25, 1749 in Wehrau , † June 30, 1817 in Dresden ) was a German mineralogist . He is considered to be the founder of geognosy , the term used until the beginning of the 19th century for the theory of the structure and construction of the solid earth's crust. Werner was the main proponent of Neptunism in the 18th century and was at the center of a dispute between Neptunists and Plutonists that dominated geology at the time.

Live and act

Werner was born the son of the Graflich-Solms ironworks inspector in Wehrau and Lorenzdorf , Abraham David Werner, and was employed by his father as a clerk and assistant as early as 1764 . In 1769 he went to the Freiberg Bergakademie . From 1771 he studied law and later natural sciences at the University of Leipzig and was at times a student of Johann Carl Gehler .

In 1775 Carl Eugenius Pabst von Ohain called him back to the Bergakademie in Freiberg as inspector and teacher of mineralogy , where he stayed until his death. Werner attracted students from all over Europe and even America. Werner's students include famous names such as Alexander von Humboldt , Franz von Baader , Leopold von Buch , the paleobotanist Ernst Friedrich von Schlotheim , Friedrich Mohs , Jean François d'Aubuisson de Voisins , André Brochant de Villiers , Johann von Charpentier , George Bellas Greenough , Johann Karl Wilhelm Voigt , who became his greatest opponent as a critic of Neptunism, and Robert Jameson , who founded a Wernerian Society in Edinburgh in 1808. Werner developed mineralogy as a separate subject from mining and gave lectures for the first time on geognosy as a science of the physical and mineralogical properties of the earth as a whole; in doing so he made earth observation an empirical science.

Werner also developed one of the first systematic mineral classifications, which is no longer in use today. In addition to minerals according to today's definition, it also included soils, rock types and organic natural products assigned to the mineral kingdom. However, his labeling theory and the mineral descriptions are considered classic. Werner also developed his own color nomenclature, in which examples from flora, fauna and minerals were named for colors. This nomenclature was published in 1814 by the Scottish painter Patrick Syme with his additions as Werner's Nomenclature of Colors .

After investigations at the Scheibenberg , a basalt survey in 1787/88, Werner came to the conclusion that the origin of the formation of rocks and minerals and the change in the earth's surface was to be found in the water, thus establishing what is known as Neptunism : All rocks were formed accordingly one after the other in an ocean created by the Flood; First igneous , then metamorphic rocks , then sedimentary rocks and finally surface sediments were deposited. He also explained the formation of igneous rocks such as basalt and their prismatic shape as evidence of crystallization in water, as well as the deposition of basalt on the Scheibenberg on a tertiary sand layer. Before Werner, the thesis of volcanic origin prevailed abroad ( Nicolas Desmarest ) and also in Freiberg, but even before Werner there was a debate about the question of the sedimentary or volcanic origin of basalt. In contrast to this thesis was the plutonism represented by James Hutton , among others , which ultimately prevailed. In Germany, for example, his opponents were in dispute over the origin and nature of basalt Rudolf Erich Raspe and his former student Johann Karl Wilhelm Voigt.

In 1791 Werner received the order from the Oberbergamt to carry out the geognostic state survey that he had long requested . From 1816 onwards, the ailing Werner assisted Carl Amandus Kühn , who continued the work after his death. Werner died in Dresden in 1817 and was buried in the Green Cemetery of St. Marien in Freiberg.

The sole heiress was his only sister Christiane Sophie († November 9, 1840), widow of Pastor Glaubitz zu Hirschberg in Silesia, who set up a charitable foundation in his sense with a foundation amount of 5000 thalers, which lasted even after her death. This served the "support of poor, sick, miners ready for mines and poor widows and orphans of failed miners".

Werner remained unmarried and had no offspring.


In December 1799 he was named a mountain ridge . In 1807 he was elected an honorary member ( Honorary Fellow ) of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and in 1808 a foreign member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1804 he became a corresponding and in 1812 a foreign member of the Académie des sciences . In 1816 he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Saxon Order for Merit and Loyalty . In 1851, a monument designed by Johann Eduard Heuchler was erected to Abraham Gottlob Werner in the promenades in Freiberg . In 1848, the Mineralogical Society of Dresden erected a monument to him next to the New Annenfriedhof in Löbtau and named Wernerstraße in Löbtau after him. A building of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg is named after Werner. The Werner Mountains in Antarctica also bear his name.

The German Mineralogical Society (DMG) annually awards the Abraham-Gottlob-Werner Medal in gold and silver named after him . The German Geological Society (DGG) also awarded an Abraham Gottlob Werner Medal and an Abraham Gottlob Werner Badge of Honor from 1979 to 2011 .


  • From the external characteristics of the fossils , Leipzig 1774 ( digital copy ) ( digital copy, pdf 15.2 MB )
  • Short classification and description of the different mountain types , Dresden 1787 ( digital copy, pdf 16.7 MB ; digital copy and full text in the German text archive )
  • Announcement of a discovery he made on the Scheibenberger Hill about the origin of basalt , Freiberg 1788 ( digitized version )
  • The different degrees of strength of the rock as the main reason for the main differences in the chopping work , Freiberg 1788
  • Attempt to explain the formation of volcanoes through the ignition of mighty layers of coal, as a contribution to the natural history of basalt , Zurich 1789 ( digitized version )
  • New theory of the origin of the corridors with application to mining, especially the Freiberg , Freiberg 1791 ( digitized google book ), ( digitized ETH )
  • Detailed and systematic directory of the mineral cabinet of the former electoral Saxon mountain chief Mr. Karl Eugen Pabst von Ohain, members of the Leipzig and St. Petersburg Economic Society, and the Royal Sardinian Society of Sciences in Tur , Freiberg / Annaberg 1791 ( digital copy )
  • Oryctognosy or manual for lovers of mineralogy , Leipzig 1792 ( digitized version )



  • Abraham Gottlob Werner. Commemorative publication on the occasion of the return of the anniversary of his death after 150 years on June 30, 1967 . German publishing house for basic industry, Leipzig 1967, ( Freiberg research books C 223).
  • Bergakademie Freiberg (Ed.): International Symposium Abraham Gottlob Werner and his time: September 19 to 24, 1999 in Freiberg (Saxony) . Conference proceedings. Publishing house of the TU Bergakademie, Freiberg 1999.
  • Samuel Gottlob Frisch : Biography of Werners AG - together with two treatises on Werner's services to oryctognosia and geognosia . Brockhaus Verlag, Leipzig 1825, ( digital version, pdf 6.5 MB )
  • Wilhelm von GümbelWerner, Abraham Gottlob . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 42, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1897, pp. 33-39.
  • Martin Guntau : Abraham Gottlob Werner. Teubner-Verlag, Leipzig 1984, ( biographies of outstanding natural scientists, technicians and medical professionals 75, ISSN  0232-3516 ).
  • Alexander Ospovat: Werner, Abraham Gottlob . In: Charles Coulston Gillispie (Ed.): Dictionary of Scientific Biography . tape 14 : Addison Emery Verrill - Johann Zwelfer . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1976, p. 256-264 .
  • Dieter Slaby, Roland Ladwig: Abraham Gottlob Werner - his time and his connections to the mountain economy. Publishing house of the TU Bergakademie, Freiberg 1999, ( Freiberg working papers 1999, 26, ISSN  0949-9970 ).
  • Werner . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 16, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, p. 538.
  • Johannes Uray: Chemical theory and mineralogical classification systems from the chemical revolution to the middle of the 19th century . In: Bernhard Hubmann, Elmar Schübl, Johannes Seidl (eds.), The beginnings of geological research in Austria. Contributions to the conference “10 Years Working Group History of Earth Sciences in Austria” from April 24th to 26th, 2009 in Graz . Graz 2010, pp. 107–125.
  • Dietrich Stoyan ; Karl-Armin Tröger : Abraham Gottlob Werner - "Father of Geology" . In: Mining Academic Stories: from the history of Bergakademie Freiberg told on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of its foundation . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2015, ISBN 978-3-95462-410-2 , pp. 79–94.

Individual evidence

  1. Abraham Gottlob Werner, Carl August Siegfried Hoffmann: Mineralsystem of Mr. Inspector Werner with his permission published by CAS Hoffmann . In: Bergmännisches Journal, Vol. 2 (1789), Vol. 1, pp. 369-398
  2. https://www.c82.net/werner/#original
  3. Helmut Hölder Brief History of Geology and Paleontology , Springer 1989, p. 42
  4. ^ Otfried Wagenbreth, History of Geology in Germany, Springer 1999, p. 36
  5. Calendar for the Saxon mountain and hut man for the year 1842 , ed. from Königl. Bergacademie zu Freiberg, p. 77
  6. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed April 21, 2020 .
  7. Member entry by Abraham Gottlob Werner at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on February 6, 2016.
  8. ^ List of former members since 1666: Letter W. Académie des sciences, accessed on March 15, 2020 (French).
  9. ^ Werner-Bau, TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Web links

Wikisource: Abraham Gottlob Werner  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Abraham Gottlob Werner  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files