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Reuss, Franz Ambrosius


(b. Prague, Czechoslovakia, 3 October 1761; d. Bilina, Czechoslovakia, September 1830)

mineralogy, geology, balneology.

Reuss was the son of a tailor who had moved from southern Baden to Prague. He received his early education in that city, then entered its university, where he studied philosophy, natural science, and, afterwards, medicine. He took the M.D. on 4 October 1783 and established a practice in Prague; during the same period he also conducted mineralogical and geological investigations and went to Freiberg to lew Werner lecture at the Bergakademie. In 1784 Reuss became physician to Prince Lobkowitz and moved to the northwestern Bohemian city of Bilin. where, except for many field trips throughout Bohemia, he spent the rest of his life. On 3 September 1797 he married Katharina Scheithauer, the daughter of the manager of an estate in the vicinity; they had four daughters and four sons, of whom one, August Emanuel, became a well-known micropaleontologist and stratigrapher.

Bilin was already famous as a spa, and Reuss, in addition to his medical duties, supervised the exploitation of the mineral springs and mines belonging to his patron. In this connection he continued his mineralogical and geological researches and concurrently began an investigation of the spas of northern Bohemia. He was uniquely qualified for such an undertaking, since he was able to bring geological, petrological, chemical, and physical techniques to his descriptions of mineral springs, and to employ his knowledge of medicine in elucidating their therapeutic properties. His first balneological work, published in 1788, was devoted to the mineral springs of Bilin and contains the first scientific description of any spa, including the geological conditions that give rise to the springs, together with the physical and chemical characteristics and therapeutic effects of their waters. As a physician, Reuss suggested that patients ought actually to come to the springs for water cures (mineral waters were already extensively bottled and sold) and that spas should arrange facilities for bathing.

Reuss became a recognized expert in balneology, and visited a number of other Bohemian mineral springs. In 1818 he published a study of Marienbad, which aroused considerable interest. At about the same time he became acquainted with the work of Berzelius, who had also studied mineral springs, and began to advocate the use of Berzelius’ analytical methods, which he wished to apply to the Bohemian springs.

Reuss’s geological and mineralogical publications comprised works on the areas around Bilin and Carlsbad, on the Mittelgebirge of northwest Bohemia, and on the regions surrounding Leitmeritz, Bunzlau, and Kaurzim. His Charakteristik der basaltischen Hornblende was published in 1798 and his Mineralogische und bergmännische Bemerkungen üher Böhmen appeared three years later. His most famous work, however, was the Lehrbuch der Mineralogie of which eight volumes (six on mineralogy and two on geology) were published between 1801 and 1806. This text was of particular importance because it contained the most complete exposition of Werner’s ideas, since Werner himself published little concerning his own neptunist theories. In it Reuss proved himself Werner’s disciple, stating, for example, that basalt is of aquatic, rather than volcanic, origin. In general, Reuss’s geological and mineralogical researches may be considered to have been the first comprehensive and reliable precursors for later work on the Tertiary sediments and volcanites of northern Bohemia, together with their pre-Tertiary basement.

Reuss carried out a number of official functions in Bilin in addition to his scientific and medical activities. He was supervisor of schools, and administered programs for vaccination and for public care of the sick and the elderly. His publications made him widely known in scientific circles; he corresponded with Goethe and Humboldt, and was elected to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences in 1800. In 1806 he was appointed Bergrat. He died of exhaustion attendant upon an abdominal injury.


I. Original Works. Reuss’s medical writings include Versuch einer Einleitung in die allgemeine Pathologic der Nerven (Prague, 1788). His geological and mineralogical works include Orographic des nordwestlichen Mittelgebirges in Böhmen, ein Beitrag zur Beantwortung der Frage: 1st der Basalt vulkanisch oder nicht ? (Dresden, 1790); Mineralogische Geographic von Böhmen, I. Mineralogische Beschreibung des Leitmeritzer Kreises (Dresden, 1793); II. Mineralogische Beschreibung des Bunzlauer Kreises (Dresden. 1797); Mineralogische und bergmännische Bemerkungen üher Böhmen. Mit einer Ansicht des Schlosses Rothenhaus (Berlin, 1801); and Lehrbch der Mineralogienach Karsten’s mineralogischer Tabelle, 8 vols. (Leipzig, 1801–1806).

His balneological works include Naturgeschichte des Biliner Sauerbrunnens in Böhmen (Prague, 1788); Das Said-schutzer Bitterwasser (Prague, 1791); Chemisch-medici-nische Beschreibung des Franzbades oder Egerbrunnens nebst einer Literaturgeschichte der Quelle (Dresden, 1794); Die Gartenquelle zu Teplitz in chemisch und medi-cinischer Hinsicht untersucht (Dresden, 1797); Die Mineral-quellen zu Bilin in Böhmen (Vienna, 1808); Das Marienbad bei Auschowitz auf der Herrschaft Tepl (Prague, 1818); Taschenbuch fur die Badegaste zu Teplitz. Eine voll-standige Beschreibung dieses Heilortes und seiner Umge-bungen in topographischer, pittoresker, geschichtlicher, geognostischer und medicinischer Hinsicht (Teplitz, 1823); and Der Nätron-Säuerling bei Bilin (Prague, 1828).

II. Secondary Literature. See A. C. P. Callisen, in Medicinisches Schriftstellerlexicon, XVI (Copenhagen, 1833), 3–7; vol. 31 (Copenhagen, 1843), 421; Poggendorff, II, 614; Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich, XXV (Vienna, 1873), 354–356; Allgemeine deutsche Biographic, XXVIII, 307–308; F. Pemsel. Dr. Franz Ambros Reuss, Zu seinem 100 Todestage am 9. September 1930 (Bilin, 1930); and K. A. von Zittel, Geschichte der Geologic und Pälaontologie bis Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts (Munich-Leipzig, 1899), passim.

Heinz Tobien

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