Hans Silence

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Hans Stille, 1941

Hans Stille (born October 8, 1876 in Hanover ; † December 26, 1966 there ) is one of the most important geologists of the 20th century. He was a professor of geology at several universities. In 1946 he founded the Geotectonic Institute in East Berlin , which later became the Central Geophysical Institute ZIPE .

Silent's research - especially on mountain formation - contributed significantly to the development of geology towards mobilism . As a representative of the earth's contraction theory , he was an opponent of Alfred Wegener's hypothesis of continental drift and contributed to the delayed acceptance of plate tectonics in Germany.


His parents were the playing card manufacturer Eduard Stille and Meta, geb. Hanckes ,. His sons were the German diplomats Wilhelm and Hans Stille. In 1895 he passed the Abitur at the Leibniz Gymnasium in Hanover and began studying chemistry in Hanover, where he joined the Corps Macaro-Visurgia .

After three semesters, Stille switched to geology at the University of Göttingen . His doctoral supervisor was Adolf von Koenen (1837–1915), who guided him to precise work in fossil science and geology. From then on, Stille also researched the fine stratification of rocks and their exact dating in the history of the earth. He wrote his dissertation in 1898 on the structure of the Teutoburg Forest .

He then worked as a mapping geologist in Berlin at the Prussian State Geological Institute . As a student of Koenens, he was able to understand global processes in ancient geological complexes thanks to his precise geological maps, which established his later world fame. He completed his habilitation in 1904 and in 1908 accepted a professorship for geology and mineralogy at the Technical University of Hanover . In 1912 he moved to the University of Leipzig and in 1913 he was appointed professor of geology and paleontology at the University of Göttingen. In 1932 he followed a call to the Berlin University and in 1933 to the Prussian Academy of Sciences . In 1946 he founded the Geotectonic Institute in East Berlin and became a pioneer in horizontal tectonics . After his retirement he returned to Hanover in 1950, but was still available to the institute as a consultant.

Discovery of new phenomena

As a new phenomenon he discovered in Lower Saxony in 1910/12 the Jurassic- Saxon tectonics with the interlocking of pressure and strain. As a supporter of the theory of contraction, he came to the view that the earth's crust must also have periods of expansion, despite slow shortening. He explained the rupture fold mountains with the flexibility of the geosyncline areas against their stiff foreland. In the Teutoburg Forest he recognized fold directions that differed from the Mesozoic Era, from which he was able to date the Variscan orogenous phase.

He recognized basic / acidic differences in plutonic magma depending on the orogenic phase of the ascent. On the many salt domes in the north German underground, he demonstrated injective folds caused by the salt flow , which he compared to the volcanic glowing flow .

These and other discoveries finally made him realize that every mountain formation must take place in typical phases.

Magmatic-tectonic cycle

Pioneeringly, Stille described the geological history of Europe through repeated tectonic and magmatic stages, which was later referred to as the cycle theory . He named these tectonic stages geosynclinal , orogenic , quasicratonic and cratonic . In the geosynclinal phase an ocean opens, basaltic volcanism is dominant. In the orogenic phase , a mountain range folds up and the interaction with the increasingly thick layers results in Felsic or intermediate volcanism. Later in the quasi-cyclonic phase, magma no longer penetrates the surface, but remains stuck in the crust. It formed intrusions . Finally, in the cratonic phase, volcanism initially stops completely or individual new basaltic volcanoes rise up.

These phases are still eponymous today for the processes of mountain formation (orogenesis), continental microplates ( cratons ) and extensive rift zones ( geosynclines ). Hans Stille believed he could identify four such repetitive phases in Europe, the “ Fennosarmatic ” formation of primeval Europe in the Precambrian , the “ Caledonian ” consolidation of Paleo-Europe in the Old Paleozoic , the formation of the “Variscides” (today's low mountain ranges ) and thus the Meso -Europas in Late Paleozoic and finally the " Alpidic " consolidation Neo-Europe, which until the Quaternary (geology) continues.

See also: Stille cycle

Role as an opponent of Alfred Wegener

Alfred Wegener's now generally accepted theory of continental drift was heavily contested during his lifetime and was initially even forgotten after Wegener's death. In Germany, the rejection by the geologists Hans Stille and Hans Cloos and their influential students was particularly decisive. Hans Stille remained a staunch opponent of continental drift until his death in 1966, even if the theory of plate tectonics had already largely gained international acceptance. His preference for the contraction hypothesis as a possible motor of the earth's crust movements, however, relativized silence in old age by a. sought a synthesis with the model of isostasy .


Since 1956 Stille was honorary chairman of the German Geological Society, of which he had been a member since 1898. In West Germany, Stille gave its name to the Hans Stille Medal , which the German Society for Geosciences (DGG) has awarded annually since 1950 for outstanding services in the geosciences.

In 1912 he was elected a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina . In 1932 he became a corresponding member of the mathematical and natural science class of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . He was a full, corresponding or honorary member of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin, Göttingen, Halle, Oslo, Paris , Madrid, Vienna, Barcelona, ​​Athens and Bucharest.

From 1937 to 1946 he was a member of the Senate of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society .

Hans Stille was awarded honorary doctorates at five universities, the Humboldt University of Berlin , the University of Sofia , the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen , the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University of Hanover .


  • Paul Trommsdorff: The faculty of the Technical University of Hanover 1831-1931. Hanover, 1931, p. 35.
  • Walter Eduard Hermann Carlé: Werner - Beyrich - von Koenen - silence. A spiritual family tree of groundbreaking geologists. Geological yearbook. Series A, General and Regional Geology, Federal Republic of Germany and Neighboring Areas, Tectonics, Stratigraphy, Paleontology, Issue 108.Swisserbart, Stuttgart 1988.
  • HJ Martini: Farewell to Hans Stille on December 30 , 1966, Geol.Jb., 84, Hanover 1967, pp. XX - XXI
  • A. Pilger, Geologisches Jahrbuch, Volume 84, 1967, pp. I-VII (for his 90th birthday)
  • Roland Brinkmann, obituary in Proc. Geolog. Soc. America, born 1967, published 1970, pp. 263–267
  • Marshall Kay: Silence, Wilhelm Hans . In: Charles Coulston Gillispie (Ed.): Dictionary of Scientific Biography . tape 13 : Hermann Staudinger - Giuseppe Veronese . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1976, p. 63-65 .
  • Franz Lotze (Ed.): Geotectonic Symposium in honor of Hans Stille, Stuttgart 1956 (with list of publications)
  • Barbara Sperling:  Silence, Hans (Johannes) Wilhelm. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 25, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-428-11206-7 , p. 346 f. ( Digitized version ).


  • The mountain construction of the Teutoburg Forest between Altenbecken and Detmold, Berlin 1900 (dissertation)
  • Geological studies in the area of ​​the Rio Magdalena, Stuttgart 1907
  • Tectonic evolutions and revolutions in the earth's crust, Leipzig 1913
  • The terms orogenesis and epirogenesis, Leipzig 1919
  • Basic questions of comparative tectonics, Berlin 1924
  • Present Tectonic State of the Earth, Bulletin of American Petroleum Geologists, Volume 20, 1936, pp. 847-880
  • The development of the American cordillera system in time and space, Preuss meeting reports. Akad. Wiss., Math.-Phys. Class, 1936, pp. 134-155
  • Introduction to the Construction of America, Berlin 1941
  • The Saxon tectonics in the picture of Europe, Hanover 1949
  • The geotectonic development of the Carpathian Mountains, Hanover 1953

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Curriculum vitae in the dissertation Der Gebirgsbau des Teutoburger Waldes between Altenbeken and Detmold ; Berlin, 1900
  2. Biographical Handbook of the German Foreign Service 1871–1945. Volume 4: p . Published by the Foreign Office, Historical Service, edited by: Bernd Isphording, Gerhard Keiper, Martin Kröger. Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-71843-3 , p. 361ff
  3. Andreas Pilger: Address to celebrate the 90th birthday of Professor Dr. Hans Stille on October 8, 1966 in Hanover-Buchholz , Geol.Jb. 84, Hanover 1967, p. XIV
  4. 100 years of Weinheim Senior Citizens' Convention , p. 139.Bochum, 1963
  5. Membership directory: Entry Silence
  6. Helmut Hölder, Brief History of Geology , Springer 1989, pp. 93 + 139
  7. Helmut Hölder, Brief History of Geology , Springer 1989, pp. 129–133.
  8. ^ Member entry by Hans Stille at the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina , accessed on June 27, 2016.
  9. Member entry by Prof. Dr. Hans Stille at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , accessed on June 27, 2016.
  10. Andreas Pilger: Address to celebrate the 90th birthday of Professor Dr. Hans Stille on October 8, 1966 in Hanover-Buchholz , Geol. Jb. 84, Hanover 1967, pp. XIII - XIX