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Schneiderhöhn, Hans


(b. Mainz, Germany, 2 June 1887; d. Sölden, near Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, 5 August 1962)


Schneiderhöhn possessed great knowledge of ore deposits and, with Joseph Murdoch and Rudolf Willem van der Veen, was one of the classical authors on ore microscopy. After graduating from the Gymnasium in Mainz, he studied geology and mineralogy at Freiburg, Munich, and especially Giessen, under the petrologist Erich Kaiser. After receiving his doctorate and spending a short time as an assistant to Kaiser, he was for several years the assistant to Theodor Liebisch, then professor of mineralogy at the University of Berlin. In 1913 Schneiderhöhn became the mineralogist for the Tsumeb mine in South-West Africa, which was then working the boundary between the spectacular oxidation zone and the enriched and primary sulfides. Forced by the war to remain in South-West Africa from 1914 to 1918, he began his major works on ore microscopy. He had only extremely primitive equipment, but the difficulties he experienced made him familiar with many technical and theoretical problems.

Schneiderhöhn made very careful studies of the primary mineral content of the Tsumeb deposit and its relations to the secondary enrichment. While doing this he discovered “Rosa Erz,” now known as germanite, and made important observations of the unusual oxidation minerals of Tsumeb, as well as of the karst phenomena and the petrology of Otavi highlands. In addition, he explored other parts of South-West Africa, working with Ernst Reuning, and gained a profound knowledge of the extremely varied types of ore deposits.

In 1919 Schneiderhöhn was appointed to the chair of mineralogy at Giessen, and five years later he succeeded F. Klockmann at Achen. In 1926 he accepted the chair of mineralogy at Freiburg im Breisgau, where he taught and worked until his retirement in 1955. He later moved to Sölden, in the Black Forest, where he continued his scientific work.

Schneiderhöhn examined many deposits in Europe, Africa, North America, and Turkey. His experience, memory, knowledge of the literature, and sharp and critical intellect gave him an intuitive sense of similarities, differences, and weak points in earlier opinions. He sometimes offered his interpretations and opinions—and published them—after a very short time, perhaps a visit of one or two days. Mistakes and oversimplifications were unavoidable: but generally, and especially in the most important cases (such as the Northern Rhodesian [now Zambian] copper deposits) he was right and his statements were later confirmed.

Friendships with Paul Niggli and (since his Berlin years) with Max Berek, who made major contributions to the optics of reflected light, were very fruitful for all concerned. Niggli’s Versuch einer natürlichen Klassifikation der im weiteren Sinne magmatischen Erzlagerstätten was greatly influenced by discussions with Schneiderhöhn, and Berek’s papers often dealt with topics suggested by Schneiderhöhn.

Careful study of the Manfeld copper shale convinced Schneiderhöhn that it was of sedimentary origin and had been formed in a manner similar to that of all black shales. The tiny globules of frambodial form were explained as “mineralized bacteria.” This idea gave rise to strong discussion; but whether “bacteria” or other primitive organisms, the globules are surely organic. His discussion of these “Schwefelkreislauf” became a basic idea of geology.

Schneiderhöhn gradually became convinced that the purist magmatic ideas, such as those of Niggli and Louis Caryl Graton, were untenable in many cases where undoubtedly “hydrothermal” deposits could not be connected with magmatism. He suggested that such deposits could be derived from superficial waters, heated by some means, from much older deposits. This idea explains many enigmatic deposits—in northern Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, and lead-zinc-silver veins surrounding the much older Broken Hill—but probably fails elsewhere.

Schneiderhöhn presented his experience and tremendous knowledge of the literature in many books. Die Lagerstätten der magmatischen Abfolge, the first volume of his Lehrbuch der Erzlagerstätten, appeared in 1941 but had a very limited circulation; most of the stock, still in the publisher’s office, was destroyed by the first bombing of Berlin. He then prepared Erzlagerstätten Kurzvorlesungen, a comprehensive introduction to the science of ore deposits. It appeared in several editions in German and has been translated into English and other languages. In the 1950’s Schneiderhöhn began Die Erzlagerstätten der Erde, of which the first volume, Die Erzlagerstätten der Frühkristallisation, appeared in 1958. It contains excellent and critical descriptions and comparisons. The second volume, Die Pegmatite, appeared soon after his death. Much data had also been collected for the four remaining volumes that he had planned.


Schneiderhöhn’s works are Lehrbuch der Erzlagerstättenkunde, I (Jena, 1941): Erzlagerstätten Kurzvorlesungen zur Einführung und zur Wiederholung (Jena, 1944), Die Erzlagerstätten der Fruhkristallisation (Stuttgart, 1958); and Die Erzlagerstätten der Erde. II (Stuttgart, 1961).

On Schneiderhöhn and his work, see K. F. Chudoba, “Prof. Dr. phil. Hans Schneiderhöhn,” in Aufschluss, 14 (1963), 106–107; D. Di Colbertaldo, “Nachruf für das Mitglied auf Lebenszeit Hans Schneiderhöhn,” in Rendiconti della Società mineralogica italiana.20 , 51–54; K. R. Mennert, “In Memoriam Hans Schneider-höhn,” in Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie. Monatshefte (1962), 245–246; and “Festband Hans Schneiderhöhn zum 70. Geburtstag,” in Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie. Abhandlungen, 91 (1957).

P. Ramdohr

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