Huene, Friedrich, Freiherr von

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(b. Tubingen, Germany, 22 March 1875; d. Tubinegen, 4 April 1969)

vertebrate paleontology.

Over a period of seven decades, Friedrich von Huene decisively deepened and advanced knowledge of fossil reptiles. He was the son of Alexandra, Baroness Stackelberg of Estonia, and Baron Johannes Hoyningen of Livonia. Two younger brothers died at an early age. In 1876 Huene’s father became a professor at the Evangelical Divinity School in Basel, Switzerland. Huene attended gymnasium in Basel, passing the final examination in 1895. In his first semester at the University of Lausanne, he studied theology and geology. Under the influence of Eugene Renevier, he began to concentrate on geology. He subsequently spent three semesters at the University of Basel. Attracted by the work of E. Koken, he then studied at the University of Tubingen. After conducting research on Silurian Craniacea, published in 1899, he received the doctorate at Tubingen in 1898. He then completed a geological description, begun in 1896, of the Liestal region in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland.

On 1 April 1899 Huene became an assistant to Koken, who encouraged him to study Saurischia of the Upper Triassic. Huene set about this new assignment in the broadest possible terms, visiting many European museums. In 1902 he submitted his Habilitation thesis, a comprehensive overview of Triassic fossil reptiles. At this time he decided to dedicate himself exclusively to research and to treat lecturing as a secondary activity.

On 17 March 1904 Huene married Theodora Lawson; they had four daughters. In 1907–1908 his monograph on the dinosaurs of the European Triassic, considered in light of non-European events, appeared. In it he expounded the position of Harry Govier Seeley (1887) that dinosaurs comprised two independent orders, Saurischia and Ornithischia. In 1908 Huene was promoted to assistant professor, and in 1910 he became a German citizen.

In 1914 Huene began excavations in the Stuben sandstone of Trossingen (southern Germany) that yielded several Plateosaurus skeletons. While he was in the midst of this work, World War I broke out. In August 1914 Huene enlisted as a volunteer and became an officer. After seeing service at the front, he assumed the post of military geologist in late 1916. After the war he worked on the thecodonts and Sauropterygia. American support enabled him to continue his excavations in Trossingen during the summers of 1921 to 1923. Besides unearthing the Plateosauri, he discovered ichthyosaurs of the Lias in Holzmaden.

Huene traveled to Argentina at the conclusion of the summer semester in 1923, in order to study sauropod (Titanosaurus) remains. Even more important to him than South America, however, was South Africa, to which he went in the spring of 1924. He collected at many sites in the Karroo region and returned to Tiibingen with a great amount of material. Vertebrate finds from Santa Maria in southern Brazil led him to organize a collecting expedition there (1928–1929). These journeys, as well as the scientific treatment of the Karroo and Gondwanaland saurians of Africa and South America, demanded strenuous efforts that were crowned in August 1939 with the opening of a new hall in the Tubingen museum. Huene also unearthed many other paleontological finds before World War II. In 1936 he discovered a specialized placodont, Henodus, from the Upper Triassic in the vicinity of Tubingen. After that he undertook to shed light on the osteology and systematics of the Mesosaurus (1940). Huene’s long and intensive preoccupation with fossil reptiles led him early on to investigate phylogenetic relationships. He brought together his fifty-five years of experiences in Palaontologie und Phylogenie der niederen Tetrapoden (1956). It is interesting to compare his classification with contemporary classifications, as A. S. Romer has done.

As the diagram shows, Huene divided lower tetrapods into the small group of Urodelidia and the large group of Eutetrapoda. This division relied on the views of E. Jarvik, which had then been rejected by most paleontologists. Huene divided Eutetrapoda

into Reptiliomorpha and Batrachomorpha. He also assigned Ichthyosauria, which were undoubtedly reptiles, to the category of Batrachomorpha. Huene counted certain forms among the primitive Reptiliomorpha that today are placed among the amphibians. He derived both the line of Sauromorpha and that of Theromorpha from the Captorhinidia. Among the Theromorpha are both Pelycosauria and Therapsida, which lead to the mammals. Mesosauria. Placodontia, Sauropterygia, and Protorosauria bear no relation to either Pelycosauria or Therapsida.

By the time it appeared, Huene’s classification was already obsolete. Rigidly fixated on the morphology of fossil reptiles, he paid little or no attention to the totality of vertebrates, to their comparative anatomy and embryology. The value of his publications lies in the profusion of individual bits of knowledge about fossil lower tetrapods.

Huene did not see the question of God and the world or of religion and nature as a great problem. In the origins of vertebrates he perceived a single, systematic course of life. Generally speaking, he reckoned on the’ guidance’ and’ planning’ of the Creator, as he said when speaking or writing to those in religious circles.

Huene worked indefatigably and briskly, and thus was able to master the huge amount of material that he collected and that was sent to him from many sources. As a result, much that he published was hastily conceived and often ill considered. Ironically, in his last publication, ’ Ein sehr junger und ungewöhnlicher Ichthyosaurier’ (1966), he fell victim to the hoax of an artificial fossil.

Huene lived an ascetic life. He was modest and helpful, and never acted against his religious precepts. He formed friendships with numerous vertebrate paleontologists, many of whom visited him. He was a member of the German Academy of Natural Scientists, Leopoldina (1944), and an honorary member of the Paleontological Society (1956). In 1956 he received the Buch Plaque of the German Geological Society.


1. Original Works. A complete list of Huene’s publications is in Reif and Lux (see below), 118–140. Huene’s works include’ Die silurischen Craniaden der Ostseeländer, mit Ausschluss Gotlands.’ in Verhandlungen der Kaiserlichen russischen mineralogischen Gesellschaft zu St. Petersburg, 2nd ser., 36 (1899), 181–359, also published separately (St. Petersburg, 1988);’ Geologische Beschreibung der Gegend von Liestal im Schweizer Tafeljura an Hand von Blatt 30 des Siegfrid-Altlas, ’ in Verhandlungen der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Basel, 12 (1900), 295–373;’ Uebersicht über die Reptilien der Trias, ’ in Geologische und paläontologische Abhandlungen, n.s. 6, no. 1 (1902), 1–84:’ Die Dinosaurier der europäischen Triasformation mit Berücksichtigung der aussereuropäischen Vorkommnisse, ’ ibid., supp, 1 (1907–1908), 1149;’ Die Cotylosaurier der Trias, ’ in Palaeontographica, 59 (1912), 69–102; Die Ichthyosaurier des Lias und ihre Zusammenhänge (Berlin, 1922);’ Vollständige Osteologie eines Plateosauriden aus dem schwäbischen Keuper, ’ in Geologische und Paläontologische Abhandlungen, n.s. 15, no.2 (1926), 1–45; Die fossilen Reptilien des südamerikanischen Gondwanalandes, 3 pts. (Munich, 1935– 1942);’ Henodus chelyops, ein neuer Placodontier, ’ in Palaeontographica, A84 (1936), 97–148;’ Osteologie und systematische Stellung von Mesosaurus, ’ ibid., A92 (1940), 45–58;’ Die Anomodontier des Ruhu-Gebietes in der Tübinger Sammlung, ’ ibid., A94 (1943), 154–188;’ Arbeitserinnerungen von Dr. Friedrich Frhr. von Huene, ’ in Selbstbiographie von Naturforschern, no. 2 (Halle an der Saale, 1944);’ Die Theriodontier des Ruhu-Gebietes in der Tübinger Sammlung, ’ in Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen, 92 (1950), 47–136; Paläontologie und Phylogenie der niederen Tetrapoden (Jena, 1956; supp., 1959); and’ Ein sehr junger und ungewöhnlicher Ichthyosaurier aus dem oberen Lias von Holzmaden, ’ in Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhndlungen, 124 (1966), 53–54.

II. Secondary Literature. Edwin H. Colbert, Men and Dinosaurs (New York, 1968); Walter Grass, ’ Friedrich Freiherr von Huene, 22.3.1875–4.4.1969.’ in Paläonto0 logische Zeitschrift, 43 (1969), 111–112; H. Hölder, ’ Geschichte der Geologie und Paläontologie der Universität Tübingen, ’ in Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie an der Universität Tübingen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (Tübigen, 1977), 87–284; Wolf-Ernst Reif.’ Evolutionary Theory in German Paleontology, ’ in Marjorie Grene, ed., Dimensions of Darwinism (Cambridge and New York, 1983), 173–203;’ Paleoecology and Evolution in the Work of Friedrich von Huence, ’ in W.-E. Reif and F. Westphal, eds., Third Symposium on Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems, Short Papers (Tübingen, 1984), 193–197;’ The Search for Macroevolutionary Theory in German Paleontology, ’ in Journal of the History of Biology, 19 (1986), 79–130; and’ Evolutionstheorie und religiöses Konzept im Werk des Wirbeltierpaläontologen Friedrich Freiherr von Huene (1875–1969), ’ in Werkschriften des Universitätsarchivs Tübingen, 1st ser., no. 12 (Tübingen, 1987), 91, 140, with W. Lux; A. S. Romer, ’ Early Reptilian Evolution Reviewed, ’ in Evolution, 21 (1976), 821–835; A. Selacher, ’ Friedrich Freiherr von Huene, ’ in News Bulletin of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists, 86 (1969), 41; and A. Seilacher and F. Westphal, ’ Friedrich Freiherr von Huene, 22 März 1875–4 April 1969, ’ in Jber. u. Mitt. Oberrhein. geol. ver., n.s. 51 (1969), 25–30.

Emil Kuhn-Schnyder

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Huene, Friedrich, Freiherr von

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