Stille, Wilhelm Hans
STILLE, WILHELM HANS
(b. Hannover, Germany, 8 October 1876: d. Hannover, 26 December 1966)
Stille was the son of Eduard and Meta Hankes Stille. His father was an army officer and later a manufacturer in Hannover. Hans married Hanna Touraine, of Huguenot ancestry, in 1903; their sons were Wilhelm, a lawyer, and Hans, a banker. Stille was a man of sturdy physique and vigorous health.
He began his studies of stratigraphy and tectonics near his home, continuing fieldwork in the area, with few interruptions, until later in life. Exploration in Colombia when he was a young man introduced him to a continent to which he devoted particular attention. He spent little time in research abroad but directed studies by many students in the western Mediterranean region. His wide and thorough reading helped him to become the leader in synthesizing global tectonics and to recognize some significant relationships.
Stille graduated from the Leibniz School in Hannover in 1896. He entered the Technische Hochschule there as a chemistry student but soon transferred to the University of Göttingen, where, under the influence of Adolf von Koenen, he studied geology until his graduation in 1899. He then worked for the Prussian Geological Survey until 1908, when he was summoned to teach in Hannover, In 1912 he replaced H. Credner as professor of geology and director of the Royal Saxon Geological Survey at Leipzig. The following year he was appointed successor to Koenen in Göttingen, where he established a reputation as an outstanding teacher and philosopher of global tectonics. He was named professor at the University of Berlin in 1932, remaining until he became emeritus in 1950.
Stille was a leader in German geology, an outstanding investigator and collator of the history of global tectonic events, and a highly admired teacher. From the time of his doctorate, he was interested in the chronological sequence of mountain-building events in time; his dissertation concerned late Jurassic orogeny in the Teutoburg Forest region. His concern was to date unconformities as evidence of orogenic events; he considered his “geotectonic classification of geologic history” to be his major contribution. From a review of world literature and his observations, Stille listed some fifty orogenic phases in Paleozoic and later time. He thought each to be essentially synchronous throughout the earth. The phases were smaller pulses in his tectonic eras–Precambrian Assyntic, Caledonic, Variscic, and Neoidic or Alpidic. Each orogenic phase made a part of the crust less mobile, the consolidations progressively enlarging the continents. He referred to progressive stages of European consolidation as Ur-, Pal-, Meso- and Neoeuropa.
Stille’s synthesis of global tectonics has been considered a worthy successor to that of Eduard Suess. Stille conceived of the crust as separated into mobile orthogeosynclinal belts with marginal oceanic low cratons and continental high cratons, the latter with subsiding regions that he called parageosynclinal. Thus he had more intense “alpinotype” or orthotectonic deformation contrasting with the “germanotype” or paratectonic, which characterized western Germany. The terms were subsequently misconstrued. Stille later divided his original orthogeosynclinal zones into eugeosynclinal (the pliomagmatic zones or internides) and the relatively amagmatic miogeosynclinal zones (the externides). Although he coined the terms in 1941, he used them very rarely. His magmatic or volcanic geosynclinal belts of the earth (eugeosynclinal belts) gained wide application. During his lifetime it was generally accepted that the low cratons (ocean basins) were essentially permanent, in contrast with the present view of their more dynamic and transient nature. Stille thought that some ocean basins might be foundered continental “high cratons” but that the Pacific was permanent. In his later years he accepted the idea of large-scale underthrusting of oceanic regions beneath the continents, as on the Pacific margin of South America.
Study of eugeosynclinal belts led to interest in their magmatic history. The progression that Stille described passed from an “initial” basic submarine volcanism (the extrusion of ophiolites) through successive sialic magmatic intrusions during and following deformation, and culminated in the final extrusion of surficial volcanic rocks on consolidated craton.
Pulses of Stille’s orogenic time scale are recognized locally, but establishment of the universality of the many phases is beyond the resolution of present stratigraphic methods. Stille astutely recognized the restriction of magmatism to orogenic belts and the magmatic succession through time, although this latter was not wholly a novel concept. He accepted the growth of continents by consolidation of mobile belts, but he was hampered by the conventional dogma of the stability of oceanic cratons. As a pioneer in many aspects of relating the larger tectonic features of the earth, Stille directed attention to the explanation of relationships among larger tectonic features of the earth, Stille directed attention to the explanation of relationships among large crustal features that are now becoming understood through the advent of geophysical techniques that he did not possess.
Stille received honorary doctorates from the universities of Bucharest, Hannover, Jena, Sofia, and Tübingen, and was elected to honorary membership in many academies of science, geological societies, and other scientific organizations. He was honorary president of the German Geological Society, which awarded him its Leopold von Buch Medal and established the Hans Stile Medal in his honor.
I Original Works. Stille wrote 200 publications. His reputation was most firmly established by Grundfragen der vergleichenden Tektonik (Berlin, 1924), A second large work, Einführung in den Bau Amerikas (Berlin, 1941), was distributed to only a few close friends; although it is rarely seen, the conclusions were rather widely disseminated in other publications.
Stille’s principal field studies were on the region of moderate folding in western Germany; an early work on this region was his doctoral dissertation, DerGebirgsbau des Teutoburger Waldes zwischen Altenbecken und Detmold (Berlin, 1900). He expressed his first interest in South America in Geologische Studien im Gebiete des Rio Magdalena (Stuttgart, 1907). Discussion of larger problems in tectonics include Tektonische Evolutionen und Revolutionen in der Erdrinde (Leipzig, 1913); Die Begriffe Orogenese und Epirogenese (Berlin, 1919); and “Present Tectonic State of the Earth,” in Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists20 (1936), 847–880. “Die Entwicklung des amerikanischen Kordillerensystems in Zeit und Raum,” in Sitzungsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Math.–Phys. Kl. (1936), 134–155, was one of several papers concerned with the Americas. Later histories of specific regional tectonic systems are “Die assyntische Ära und der vormit-, und nachassyntische Magmatismus,” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft, 98 (1948); Die saxonische Tektonik im Bilde Europas (Hannover, 1949); and Der Geotektonische Werdegang der Karpaten (Hannover, 1953).
II. Secondary Literature.. The full bibliography through 1955 was published in Geotektonisches Symposium zu Ehren von Hans Stille, Franz Lotze, ed. (Stuttgart, 1956), on his eightieth birthday; S. von Bubnoff prepared an appreciative note in Geologie, 5 (1956), 528–529; and A. Pilger, on his ninetieth birthday, in Geologisches Jahrbuch84 (1967), i–vii. H. J. Margini wrote an obituary in Geologisches Jahrbuch, 84 (1967), viii–ix; W. Carle, in Jahresberichte und Mitteilungen des oberrheinischen geologischen Vereins, 49 (1967), 17–19; and Roland Brinkmann, in Proceeding. Geological Society of America for 1967 (1970), 263–267. Later publications are listed in a short biographical note by Hans Hitlermann in Berliner Naturhistorische Gesellschaft, 112 (1968), 5–8. Stille directed more than 100 research students, of whom the earlier are listed in Festchrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Hans Stille (Stuttgart, 1936).
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Stille, Wilhelm Hans
"Stille, Wilhelm Hans." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/stille-wilhelm-hans
"Stille, Wilhelm Hans." A Dictionary of Earth Sciences. . Retrieved October 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/stille-wilhelm-hans