Helmuth Zapfe

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Helmuth Zapfe (born September 16, 1913 in Vienna ; † July 5, 1996 ) was an Austrian paleontologist .


Helmuth Zapfe was already taken to collect fossils by his father, a central inspector of the Austrian Federal Railways. He studied geology, zoology and paleontology at the University of Vienna (among others with Othenio Abel ), where he received his doctorate in 1936 under Kurt Ehrenberg (paleobiological studies of hippurite occurrences in the north Alpine Gosau strata). He was then assistant to Ehrenberg and completed his habilitation in 1944, while he was stationed in Norway as a military geologist during World War II. Then he worked in the state coal mining industry in Austria.

Since 1951 he worked as a scientist at the Natural History Museum Vienna , where he made it up to the director of the geological-paleontological department. In 1955 he received the title of professor. In 1965 he became associate professor and in 1972 full professor at the Paleontological Institute of the University of Vienna.

Among other things, he excavated mammals in Tertiary and Ice Age karst fillings in Austria, examined reefs of the Upper Triassic on the Gosaukamm and dug up pygmy elephants on Greek islands.

Zapfe was a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (1967 corresponding and 1970 full member). In 1971 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences . In 1989 he became an honorary member of the Paleontological Society and in 1987 of the Austrian Paleontological Society. In 1979 he became an honorary member of the Hungarian Geological Society. In 1976 he received the Ferdinand von Hochstetter Medal from the Natural History Museum in Vienna and in 1987 the City of Vienna Prize. In 1993 he received the Othenio Abel Prize and was awarded an honorary doctorate in Athens in 1992. He was the bearer of the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, 1st Class . He was the editor of the Catalogus Fossilium Austriae and in 1972 and 1987 published the Index Palaeontologicorum Austriae , a directory of Austrian paleontologists and fossil collectors , as a supplement to it. He was buried at the Döblinger Friedhof .

Dedication names

In 1980 the fossil pipefish species Nerophis zapfei was named after Helmuth Zapfe.


  • Dietrich Herm : Helmuth Zapfe September 16, 1913– July 5, 1996. In: Bavarian Academy of Sciences Yearbook 1997. Munich 1998, pp. 253–254.
  • Erich Thenius : Helmuth Zapfe September 16, 1913– July 5, 1996 . In: Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Geologische Gesellschaft 88, pp. 123–127 ( digitized version ).
  • Georg Tichy: In memoriam Helmuth Zapfe. In: O.Ö Geonachrichten. 12, 1997, pp. 17-34 ( PDF on ZOBODAT ).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Grave site Helmuth Zapfe , Vienna, Döblinger Friedhof, Group 39, Row 5, No. 5.
  2. Friedrich Bachmayer: A fossil snake needle (Syngnathidae) from the Leithakalk (Badenien) of St. Margarethen, Burgenland (Austria). In: Annals of the Natural History Museum Vienna. Volume 83, 1980, pp. 29-33 ( PDF on ZOBODAT ).

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