Seilacher, Adolf 1925- (A. Seilacher)

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Seilacher, Adolf 1925- (A. Seilacher)


Born February 24, 1925, in Stuttgart, Germany; son of Adolf and Frida Seilacher; married Edith Drexler, July 20, 1957; children: Ulrike, Peter. Education: University of Tübingen, Ph.D, 1951. Hobbies and other interests: Ballroom dancing.


Home—Tübingen, Germany. Office—Department of Geology, Yale University, 210 Whitney Ave., New Haven, CT 06511-8902. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany, assistant professor, 1951-57; University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany, docent, 1957-59; University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq, lecturer, 1959-1961; University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany, professor, 1961-64; University of Tübingen, Tübingen, professor, 1964-1990; Yale University, New Haven, CT, adjunct professor of geology and geophysics, 1987—. Member of advisory boards. Military service: Served with the German navy.


American Association for the Advancement of Science, Paleontology Association, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences.


Crafoord Prize, Swedish Academy of Science, 1992; R.C. Moore medal; Paleontological Society medal; honorary member of Geological Society of London and Royal Physiographical Society of Lund University.


(As A. Seilacher; editor, with G. Einsele) Cyclic and Event Stratification, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1982.

(Editor, with Ulf Bayer) Sedimentary and Evolutionary Cycles, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1985.

(Editor, with Gerhard Einsele and Werner Ricken) Cycles and Events in Stratigraphy, Springer-Verlag (New York, NY), 1991.

Muschelkalk: Schöntaler Symposium 1991, Goldschneck (Stuttgart, Germany), 1993.

Evolving Form and Function: Fossils and Development: Proceedings of a Symposium Honoring Adolf Seilacher for His Contributions to Paleontology, in Celebration of His 80th Birthday: April 1-2, 2005, New Haven, Connecticut, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University (New Haven, CT), 2005.

Trace Fossil Analysis, Springer (Berlin, Germany), 2007.

Contributor to works by others and to scientific journals.


Adolf Seilacher has contributed to the sciences of geology and geophysics for more than half a century, including as an adjunct professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. At that point in his career, Seilacher chose to divide his time between New Haven and his home in Tübingen, Germany. Seilacher is the recipient of the Crafoord Prize of the Swedish Academy of Science for his work in the field of the evolution of life in interaction with the environment as it is documented in the geological record.

Seilacher first studied under Otto Henrich Schindewolf, professor of paleontology at the University of Tübingen. He interrupted his studies to serve in World War II, then returned to Tübingen to complete his doctorate in 1951. After teaching at the University of Baghdad and University of Göttingen, he returned to Tübingen in 1964, where he became the successor to Schindewolf.

Science writer Roger Lewin wrote in a 1984 article that Seilacher believes that alien forms of life existed on this planet. "In a bold reassessment of the earliest complex life forms to appear in the fossil record—known as the Ediacaran fauna, after the South Australian locality where it was first discovered in 1947—Seilacher suggests that these creatures were not precursors to the great Cambrian explosion of species diversity and number that half a billion years ago marked the establishment of nearly all the major body plans we are familiar with today, but instead represent a widespread, but ultimately failed, biological experiment."

Seilacher was responsible for an exhibit of fossil art at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. Seilacher and his team embarked on a worldwide quest in 1991, and returned with casts of former seafloor sediments that were then used to recreate the original stone surfaces. Commenting on the exhibit, Science News contributor Richard Monastersky wrote: "One piece bears the name ‘Shrimp Burrow Jungle’ and looks like a Jackson Pollock drip painting stripped of its colors. Another jagged slab, called ‘Nature as Fingerpainter,’ is covered with curvy wrinkles that bring to mind thumbprints or the fleshy folds of an infant's skin.… Seilacher describes all this in detail in the catalogue to the exhibit, but he has intentionally left such information off the fossil displays. He forces people to confront them first as pure designs, as pieces of abstract art."

Seilacher is acknowledged to be perhaps the world's foremost authority on trace fossils. His Trace Fossil Analysis, published late in his career, traces organisms through the history of the earth, including fossils of the earth and seas, most of which were recorded in tracks and tunnels in what was originally soft sediments. This volume is unique in that Seilacher drew all of the figures it contains. His iconic drawings are grouped in seventy-five plates that are the focus of the text. He also provides a glossary of ichnological terms.



Choice, June, 1992, C.J. Casella, review of Cycles and Events in Stratigraphy, p. 1572.

Journal of Paleontology, July, 1994, "Presentation of the Paleontological Society Medal to Adolf Seilacher," p. 916; July, 1994, "Response by Adolf Seilacher," p. 917.

Science, January 6, 1984, Roger Lewin, "Alien Beings Here on Earth," p. 39.

Science News, December 19, 1998, Richard Monastersky, "A Billion Years of Beauty: Exhibit of Fossils Strains the Definition of Art," p. 398.


Adolf Seilacher Home Page, (February 17, 2008).

Yale University Faculty Home Page, (February 17, 2008).