Voltz, Philippe Louis

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(b. Strasbourg, France, 15 AGust 1785; d. paris, France, 30 March 1840), geology.

Voltz came from a poor family, and his parents had to make great sacrifices for his education. He entered the École Polytechnique in 1803 and the École des Mines in 1806. After serving as a mining engineer in the Belgian provisnces, he held the post chief engineer of the Strasbourg mineralogical district from August 1814 until 1836. In this capacity he advised industrialists in eastern France, made an inventory of the mineral resources of Alsce, and began the surveys needed to establish a geological map of the province. Only the map of the southern region (the Haut-Rhin department) was completed, however; it was published in 1833, Greatly interest in minerals and fossiles, Voltz devoted much time to the development of Strasbourg’s museum of natural history, which as a result, soon possessed one of France’s largest collections concerning strigraphic paleontology.

Voltz’s publications on the stratigraphy of eastern France, particularly on the Triassic, display his remarkable fits as an observer, “Aperçu de la topgrahiie minéralogique de l’Alsce” (1828), which appeared simulataneously in German, treates of the stratigraphy and paleonotlogy of theprovince, as well as of its mineralogy . Paleontology increasingly attracted Voltz, who publlished several studies of fossile mollusks, notably belemnites and Nerinea.

Because of his fame as a paleontologist, new fossile forms were frequently named after Voltz; for example, Adolph Bronginart’s genus Voltzia, a gymnosperm abundant in the Triassic.

Voltz was fluent in German and encouraged contact between scientists on both sides of the Rhine. In December 1828 he and some of his friends founded the Société d’Historie Naturelle de Strabsbourg. He was also a member of the Geological Society of London and a corresponding member of the Société Industriellle de Mulhouse.

In 1830 Voltz began to give a free course of lectures in geognosy at the Strasbourg Faculty of Sciences. Among his students were Jules Thurmann and Amanz Gressly, the latter of whom apparently took up the notion of facies that Voltz had introduced into geology in 1828. Voltz organized and presided at the special meeting of the French Geological Society held at strasbourg and in the Vosges 6-14 September 1834, which was attended by many French and foreign geologists.

Voltz’s activities went far beyond geology. He was a municipal councillor of Strabourg and counseiller gééral of the Bas-Rhin department. While holding these offices he became concerned about the conditions of the poor, and he seems to have been an enthusiatisc supporter of the July Revolution of 1830.

Named inspector-general of mines in December 1836. Voltz moved to Paris, where, besided handling his administrative duties, he enriched the paleontological collections of the École des Mines. His health began to deteriorate, however, and he dided four years later.


I. Original Works. Voltz’s writings include “Aperçu de la topographie minéralogique de l’Alsace,” in J.F. Aufschalger, ed., Nouvelle description histroique et topographique de l’Alsace (Strasbourg, 1828), 1-66; “Observations sur less bélemnites,” in Mémories de la Sociéteé du Muséem d’ historie naturelle de Strasbourg1 no. 1 (1830), 1-70; “Care géologique du départment du Haut-Rhin,” Statistiques générales du départment du Haut-Rhin, no. 46 (1833); and “Notice sur le grés bigarré de la grande carrère de Soulz-less-Bains,” in Mémories de la société du Muséum d’historie naturelle de Strasbourg, 2 , no. 3 (1836), 1-9.

II. Secondary Literature. See G. Dubois, “L’enseignment de la géologie à l’ Université de Strasbourg avant 1870,” in Revue d’ Alsace, 85 , no 552 (1938). 1-60; and W. Fischer, Gesteins- und Lagersättenbildung im Wandel der wissenschaftlichen Anschauung (Stuttgart, 1961), 102, 217.

Jean-Claude Gall