Otto Heinrich Schindewolf

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Otto H. Schindewolf, photo from the festival tape for his 70th birthday on June 7, 1966

Otto Heinrich Schindewolf (born June 7, 1896 in Hanover , † June 10, 1971 in Tübingen ) was a German paleontologist .


Schindewolf was born in Hanover in 1896. From 1914 he studied at the University of Göttingen with Hans Stille and Rudolf Wedekind, among others, and after an interruption due to military service in the First World War at the University of Marburg , where he followed Wedekind, where he received his doctorate in 1919 on ammonites from the Oberdevon from the area around Hof . In 1921 he completed his habilitation as Wedekind's assistant and in 1927 he became an adjunct professor in Marburg. In the same year he went to the Prussian State Geological Institute in Berlin , where he was head of palaeozoology and looked after the collection and library. In 1933 he was in the USA. In 1947 he became a full professor for paleontology at the Humboldt University in Berlin . From 1948 until his retirement in 1964 he was a professor at the University of Tübingen and director of the palaeontological institute there. 1956/1957 he was rector of the university.

Schindewolf was born with Hedwig Schindewolf. Scheel (* March 25, 1900; † September 12, 2001) married and had the sons Eberhart Schindewolf and Ulrich Schindewolf with her .


As a paleontologist, he dealt mainly with ammonites and corals, but was also very interested in the conclusions for the theory of evolution that emerged from paleontology. In his theory of typostrophes he developed idealized ideas about the natural flourishing and extinction of species in the history of the earth . In contrast to the vast majority of evolutionary researchers ( modern synthesis ), who assumed the progress of evolution through small gradual changes, Schindewolf spoke out in favor of the existence of sudden changes through large mutations in the sense of Richard Goldschmidt ( hopeful monsters ). According to a catchy formulation by Schindewolf, the first bird emerged from a reptile egg. Even after Schindewolf, these sudden changes were the real reason why paleontologists were often unable to find transitional forms. In his main work, Basic Questions in Paleontology , Schindewolf presents his typostrophic theory comprehensively. This textbook has long been the standard work on evolutionary theory for German paleontologists. 1993 an English translation appeared in the main work because views Schindewolf factory Stephen Jay Gould (in punctualism ( punctuated equilibrium ) or punctuated equilibrium ) z. T. be taken up again. Schindewolf himself later suspected extraterrestrial causes for the increase in mutations (increase in cosmic rays). In 1954 he conducted field studies in the salt mountains in Pakistan , where he explored the Permian-Triassic border , where a great upheaval in the fauna took place (mass extinction), and where he was looking for evidence for the alternative theory of evolution he had developed.

Honors and memberships

In 1948 he received the Leopold von Buch badge . In 1962 he became an honorary member of the Paleontological Society . He had been a member of the Leopoldina since 1952 and a corresponding member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences since 1958 . Scientists from the German expedition GANOVEX III (1982–1983) named the Schindewolf Glacier in Antarctica after him.



Schindewolf is mentioned in Peter Høeg's bestseller "Fräulein Smilla's Feeling for Snow". It is said there that he coined the term "neocatastrophism" in the 1960s.

Fonts (selection)

  • Studies from the Marburg red sandstone. I. About fossil horizons in the Marburg red sandstone. Senckenbergiana, III for 1920, Frankfurt a. M. 1921, pp. 33-41
  • Studies from the Marburg red sandstone. II. Bark formation as a recent chemical weathering phenomenon of the Marburg red sandstone. Senckenbergiana, III for 1920, Frankfurt a. M. 1921S, 45-49
  • Questions of principle on biological systematics , Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Volume 9, 1928, pp. 122–166
  • Ontogenie und Phylogenie , Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Volume 11, 1929, pp. 54-67
  • Comparative studies on the phylogeny, morphogeny and terminology of the Ammoneenlobenlinie , treatises of the Prussian Geological State Institute, issue 115, Berlin 1929
  • Paleontology, evolutionary theory and genetics: criticism and synthesis , Berlin: Gebrüder Borntraeger 1936
  • Observations and thoughts on Deszendenzlehre, Acta Biotheretica, Volume 3, 1937, pp. 195-221
  • Basics and methods of palaeontological chronology , Berlin: Borntraeger 1944, 3rd edition, Naturwissenschaftlicher Verlag formerly Borntraeger, Berlin 1950
  • On the struggle for the design of the theory of descent , Die Naturwissenschaften, Volume 31, 1944, pp. 269–282
  • Questions of the theory of descent , essays and speeches of the Senckenbergische Naturforschenden Gesellschaft, Volume 1, Frankfurt: Kramer 1947
  • The essence and history of palaeontology , series: Problems of science in the past and present, Wissenschaftliche Editionsgesellschaft, Berlin 1948
  • Basic questions of paleontology. Geological time measurement, organic tribe development, biological systematics , Schweizerbart'sche Verlagbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1950
  • The time factor in geology and palaeontology , Academic inaugural lecture Tübingen July 8, 1948, Stuttgart, E. Schweizerbart 1950
  • The time factor in geology and palaeontology , Journal of the German Geological Society, Volume 102, Issue 1, 1950, pp. 149–167
  • About the possible causes of the great geological faunal sections , New Yearbook for Geology and Palaeontology, monthly books, 1954, pp. 457-465
  • Studies on the tribal history of the ammonites , part 1, Abh. d. Akad. Wiss. ud lit. Mainz, math.-naturwiss. Kl., 1960, pp. 635-743
  • Neue Systematik , Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Volume 36, 1962, pp. 59–78
  • Neocatastrophism? , Journal of the German Geological Society, Volume 114, 1963, pp. 430–445
  • Earth history and world history , Dep. D. Akad. Wiss. ud lit. Mainz, math.-naturwiss. Kl., 1964, pp. 56-104
  • About the "type" in morphological and phylogenetic biology . Akad. D. Science Mathem. Natural science Class 4, 1969, pp. 55-131
  • Phylogeny and anthropology from a phylogenetic point of view . In: Gadamer / Vogler (ed.): Neue Anthropologie Volume 1, pages 230-292, Stuttgart 1972.
  • Otto H. Schindewolf Basic questions in paleontology: geologic time, organic evolution, and biological systematics , editor Wolf-Ernst Reif , foreword Stephen Jay Gould , University of Chicago Press 1993


  • Heinrich Karl Erben : Obituary for Otto Heinrich Schindewolf . Jahrb. Akad. Wiss. Lit., Mainz 1971 and Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Volume 45, 1971, pp. 75-86 (with complete list of publications)
  • Dieter Korn : Schindewolf, Otto Heinrich , in: Ronald Singer (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Paleontology, Volume 2, Chicago 1999
  • Jürgen Kullmann, Jost Wiedmann (Ed.): Festband Otto H. Schindewolf on the completion of his 70th year of life on June 7, 1966 , New Yearbook for Geology and Paleontology, Volume 125, H. 1/3, 1966 (on Schindewolf von Kullmann / Wiedmann S. xi-xxvii)
  • Jürgen Kullmann, Jost Wiedmann: Otto Heinrich Schindewolf on memory , Atempto Tübingen 39-40, 1971, pp. 120-121
  • Wolf-Ernst Reiff: The search for a macroevolutionary theory in German paleontology , Journal of the History of Biology, Volume 19, 1986, pp. 79-130
  • Wolf-Ernst Reiff: Typology and the primacy of morphology: The concepts of OHSchindewolf , Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen, Volume 205, 1997, pp. 355-371
  • Olivier Rieppel : Schindewolf, Otto Heinrich, in: New Dictionary of Scientific Biography , Volume 6, 2008, pp. 351-355, online
  • Gottfried Zirnstein:  Schindewolf, Otto Heinrich Nikolaus. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , p. 786 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Martin Amrein The bird from the reptile egg. An investigation of Otto H. Schindewolf's theory of evolution , Bern Studies 2011, ISBN 978-3-9523421-7-6
  • Adolf Seilacher : Otto H. Schindewolf, June 7, 1896-10. June 1971 , New Yearbook for Geology and Paleontology, monthly books, 1972, pp. 69–71
  • Curt Teichert : From Karpinsky to Schindewolf - Memories of some great paleontologists , Journal of Paleontology, Volume 50, 1976, pp. 1-12

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Member entry of Otto Schindewolf at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on June 20, 2016.
  2. Prof. Dr. Otto H. Schindewolf. Member entry at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences , accessed on June 20, 2016 .
  3. ^ Peter Høeg: Miss Smilla's feeling for snow . The town. Part 3. Chapter 1