Daubrée, Gabriel-Auguste

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Daubrée, Gabriel-Auguste

(b. Metz, France, 25 June 1814; d. Paris, France, 29 May 1896)


In 1834 Daubrée entered the University of Strasbourg. His first interest was in tin mining; to study this he visited Norway, Sweden, and England. His membership in an official mission to Cornwall in 1837 resulted in his contribution to Dufrenoy and Élie de Beaumont’s Voyage métallurgique en Angleterre (1839). His interest in mineralization was shown in the thesis he presented to the Faculty of Sciences in Paris for the doctorate in science: Thèse sur les températures du globe terrestre….

Daubrée became engineer for the Department of Bas-Rhin in 1840 and spent the next eight years preparing a geological map of the region, publication of which was followed by a long memoir on the department. He was summoned to Strasbourg to take the chair of mineralogy and geology, and there he established an important experimental laboratory for the study of mineralogical and geological processes.

The pattern of Daubrée’s lifework was now established, and he is remembered for his contributions to the understanding of geochemical processes, the application of engineering principles to an understanding of geological structures and mineralization patterns, and the economic exploitation of ore bodies. The first of these interests resulted in Études et expériences synthétiques… (1859) and the third in his reports for the expositions of London (1862) and of Paris (1867).

In 1861, immediately following an important consultancy on the exploitation of mineral resources in Luxembourg, Daubrée was appointed professor-administrator at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and a member of the Academy of Sciences, where he continued to be an influential researcher and teacher. His interest in experimental geology was reflected in Rapport sur les progrès de la géologie expérimentale (1867), which was followed by his work of most lasting significance, Études synthétiques de géologie expérimentale (1879). Many of the experiments described in the latter are still referred to, but ironically it was his mechanical rather than his chemical experiments that most influenced later work. In particular, the production of joint patterns associated with folding and torsion proved a very valuable stimulus to the experimental studies of such geologists as Bailey Willis and Ernst and Hans Cloos.

From 1872 until his retirement in 1884 Daubrée was director of the School of Mines in Paris and from 1875 a member of the influential commission charged with the production of the national geological map. His last years, which were dogged by ill health, saw the fruition of two important aspects of his lifework: his studies of meteorites and of the chemical action of underground water on limestone. Daubrée had built up a large collection of meteorites, and his Météorites et la constitution géologique du globe (1886) contained significant inferences on the constitution of other extraterrestrial bodies. This work was immediately followed by two works on the action of underground water: Les eaux souterraines à l’époque actuelle (1887) and Les eaux souterraines aux époques anciennes (1887). His last important work, Les régions invisibles du globe… (1888), united many of his interests.

At the time of his death Daubrée was a grand officer of the Legion of Honor, the holder of three honorary degrees, and a member of eighty-six learned societies.


Among Daubrée’s writings are his contribution to Dufrenoy and Élie de Beaumont’s Voyage métallurgique en Angleterre, II (Paris, 1839), 203–257; Thèse sur les températures du globe terrestre, et sur les principaux phénomènes géologiques qui paraissent être en rapport avec la chaleur propre de la terre; Carte géologique du département du Bas-Rhin, 1:80,000 (Paris, 1849); Description géologique et minéralogique du département du Bas-Rhin (Strasbourgh, 1852); Ẹtudes et expériences synthétiques sur le métamorphisme et sur la formation des roches cristallines (Paris, 1859) Produits des mines, des carrières et des usines métallurgiques (Paris, 1862); Rapport sur les progrès de la géologie expérimentale (Paris, 1867); Substances minérales, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1868); Études synthétiques de géologie expérimentale (Paris, 1879); Les météorites et la constitution géologique du globe (Paris, 1886); Les eaux souterraines à l’epoque actuelle, leur régime, leur température, leur composition au point de vue du rôle qui leur revient dans l’économie de l’écorce terrestre (Paris, 1887); Les eaux souterraines aux époques ancienes, rôle qui leur revient dans l’origine et les modifications de la substance de l’écorce terrestre (Paris, 1887); and Les régions invisibles du globe et des espaces célestes, eaux souterraines, tremblements de terre, météorites (Paris, 1888).

R. J. Chorley