Zirkel, Ferdinand

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(b. Bonn, Germany, 20 May 1838; d. Bonn, 11 June 1912)

geology, petrographv, mineralogy.

Zirkel was the son of Joseph Zirkel, professor of mathematics at a Gymnasium in Bonn. He remained single all his life, taking care of his mother and widowed sister. He enrolled at the University of Bonn in 1855, studying geology, mineralogy, and chemistry to prepare for a career as a mining geologist. After several semesters of practical work in mines, he returned to graduate work at Bonn, mainly with C. G. Bischof, J. J. Noggerath, and Gerhard vom Rath.

In 1860 Zirkel traveled to the Faeroes and Iceland and remained for a time in Scotland and England, visiting the major ore deposits. His collection of volcanic rocks from Iceland was the basis of his doctoral dissertation, for which he obtained his degree on 14 March 1861. With this work Zirkel abandoned his original intention of becoming a mining geologist, although his later position on the Board of the Mansfelder Kupferschiefer Company kept him in touch with economic geology.

Very important to Zirkel was his friendship with Henry Clifton Sorby, whom he met in England and who started him off in the work that made his reputation in a field of which he was a founder, petro-graphic microscopy. Zirkel spent two years in Vienna with Haidinger, working out a monograph on bournonite (1862) and a paper entitled “Mikroskopische Untersuchungen von Gesteinen and Mineralien” (1862), the latter amplifying Sorby’s discovery of fluid inclusions in minerals.

On the basis of his early systematic work on microscopic petrography, Zirkel was appointed associate professor in Lemberg (now Lvov) in 1863 and full professor in 1865. He obtained a professorship in Kiel in 1868 and in Leipzig in 1870, as successor to K. F. Naumann. He remained at Leipzig until his retirement in 1909.

Zirkel’s fame was establised in 1873 with Die mikroskopische Beschaffenheit der Mineralien und Gesteine His most influential work was Lehrbuch der Petrographie (1866).

In 1894-1895 Zirkel visited Ceylong and the United states. A member of many European academies of science, he received an honoary doctorate from Oxford in 1907. He served as rector of the University of Leipzig and was memebr of the Sachsische Akademie der Wissenschaften


1. Original Works. Zirkel’s books include De geognostica Islandiae constitutione observations (Bonn, 1861), his dissertation; Reise nach Island (Leipzig, 1862) written with W.Preyer; Lehrbuch der Petrographie, 2 vols, (Bann, 1866; 2nd., ed, 3 vols, Leipzig, 1893-1894); Untersuchunfen über die mikroskopische Zusammaensetzurg und Struktur der Basaltgesteine (Bann, 1870) Die mikroskopische Beschaffentheit der Mineralien und Gesteine (Leipzig,1873); and his eds. of K.F.Naumann’s Elemente der Mineralogie (10th ed., Leipzig 1877; through the 15 th ed., 1907)

Among his articles are “Die trachytischen Gesteine der Eifel;” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft, 11 (1859), 507-540; “Versuch einer Monographie des Bournonit,” in Sitzunsberichte der K.Akademie der Wissenschften in Wien,45 sec. 1 (1862), 431-466; “Über die mikroskopische Zusammensetzung der Phonoloithe” in Poggendorff’s Annalen der Physik131 (1867), 298-336; “Beitrage zur geologischen Kenntnis der Pyreneae,” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen geologishen Gesellschaft, 19 (1867), 68-215; “Mikrsokopische Untersuchung iiber die glasigen und halbglasigen Gesteine,” ibid., 737-802; “Microscopical Petrography” , in Unites States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallal (Washington, D.C.1876), also published in German as “Über die Krystallischen Gesteine langs des 40. Britegrades in Nordwest Amerika.” in Math, Phys. Ber.,29 (1877). 156-243; “Über Urausscheidungen in rheiniischen Basalten,” in Abhandlungen der K. Sächsischen Geseöschaft der Wissenschaften., math-phy. Kl.28 no. 3 (1903). 103-198; and “Über die gegenseitigen Beziehungen zwischen der Petrographie und angrenzenden Wissenschaften,” in Journal of Geology, 12 no. 6 (1904), 485-500. in German.

II. Seconndary Literature. See R. Brauns, “Ferdinand Zirkel,” in Zentrablatt, för Mineralogie Geologie und Palantologie (1912), 513-521; F.Rinne, “Nachruf, auf, F.Zirkel” , in Beriche über die Verhandlungen der Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Verhadlungen der Sachischen der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, math-phys KL. 64 (1912), 501-508; and Felix Wahnschaffe, “Ferdinand Zirkel,” in Zeitschrift der Deutstchen geologichen Gesellschaft, B, Monotsberichte, 64 no.7 (1912), 353-363, the most complete and accurate obituary.

G. C. Amstutz