Biography of Dr. Anselm Windhausen (1882-1932)

Anselm Windhausen was born in Lingen, Germany, on April 20th, 1882. He studied at the Gymnasium Josephinum in Hildesheim and, successively, at the universities of Berlin, Munich and Göttingen, where he had among his teachers such renowned scientists as Ferdinand von Richthofen, Wilhelm Roentgen, Karl von Zittel, Wilhelm von Branca and Adolf von Koenen.

He began his scientific work at the Unicorn Cave, in the Harz mountains of Germany, under a scholarship from the Virchow Foundation, conducting geological and paleontological studies whose basic conclusions were confirmed many years later.

In those early years, he worked for Göttingen’s Geological-Paleontological Institute and the Roemers Museum in Hildesheim. In 1907, he obtained his Ph. D. in Geology at the University of Göttingen and that same year he was appointed to take care of the geological and paleontological collections at the Provincial Museum in Hanover.

On April 20th, 1909, when he was turning 27, he was hired by the Mines and Geology Division of Argentina’s Ministry of Agriculture as a staff geologist. He moved to Argentina shortly thereafter.

His first geological surveys in Argentina where conducted in the southern area of the province of Mendoza between 1909 and 1910. In 1910, he was in charge of organizing the mineralogical collection at the Centennial Exposition in Buenos Aires.

Commissioned by the Argentine government, he organized the Mines and Geology Division exhibition at the Industries and Labor Exposition in Turin and Roubaix in 1911, in which he obtained a "Grand prix."

Between 1912 and 1913, he began his first explorations in northern Patagonia to investigate the oil outcrops that had been reported in the late 19th century in the Cerro Lotena area of the province of Neuquén.

In September of 1913, he recommended the exploitation of oil in what is today the Plaza Huincul field, during a lecture he gave at the Sociedad Científica Argentina in Buenos Aires. (However, the merit of having discovered that oil field was wrongly attributed to one of his superiors, Dr. Hans Keidel, and it wasn't until 1972, some 60 years later, that Windhausen’s achievement was finally recognized).

In 1916, he resumed his explorations in the areas of Río Negro and Neuquén to define the limits between the Cretaceous and the Jurassic. His conclusions were first published in 1918 in the American Journal of Science. In that study, he established the concept and nomenclature of the so-called « Jagüel layers. »

Subsequently, he extended his expeditions to the area south of Lake Nahuel Huapí, the Chubut River, Puerto Camarones, Puerto Madryn and other parts of Patagonia. He published his research on the Neocomian fauna at the National Academy of Sciences in Córdoba, Argentina, of which he became a member a few years later, in 1922.

He maintained important scientific correspondence on the controversy surrounding the theories of Florentino Ameghino with such renowned colleagues as Herman von Ihering, director of the Museo Paulista, and W. D. Matthew, of the American Museum of Natural History.

In 1919, he was transferred to the newly-created Dirección General de los Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales, which later became the state-owned oil company YPF. Windhausen was commissioned to conduct a complete geological survey of the oil areas of Chubut and Santa Cruz, whose partial conclusions he published in Argentina and Germany.

In 1920, Windhausen took the Argentine citizenship. After a strong argument with the Director of YPF, Col. Enrique Mosconi, about the prospects for the exploitation of Patagonian oil, which he defended against other opinions, he returned to Mines and Geology in 1923.

In 1924, he published a landmark geological study of the Bay of San Jorge, which, for decades, was the basis for the exploration and exploitation of oil in that zone of Patagonia.

Besides, he brought back to public attention the importance of the Jaramillo Petrified Forest (now known as the Cerro Cuadrado Petrified Forest) in the southern province of Santa Cruz. He sent samples of area fossils (like the « Araucaria mirabilis ») to his German colleague Walter Gothan, a celebrated paleontologist, with a recommendation for further studies in Germany.

Windhausen also recommended the exploitation of what was later known as the lignite fields of Río Turbio, and extensively explored the Lake Argentino area of Santa Cruz. In 1923, he cooperated with renowned South African scientist A. du Toit during his visit to Argentina, closely working with him on the geological correlations of Patagonia and Southern Africa.

He then published a milestone article titled "El nacimiento de la Patagonia" (The birth of Patagonia), in 1924.

In it, he pioneered the idea of using Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift for the study of South American geology. His ideas about the tectonic plates of South America were confirmed some 30 years later with the use of satellite photography.

In 1925, as a member of the Argentine Geographical Society (GAEA), he actively cooperated with the expedition of the German oceanographic ship « Meteor, » which mapped the South Atlantic floor with the use of sonar. Along with his brother-in-law, the German topographer Fritz Graef, he co-edited GAEA's scholarly journals.

In 1926, he was appointed Geology and Paleontology professor of Graduate Studies at the School of Natural Sciences of the National University of Córdoba. In 1928, the Berlin Geographical Society, in its centennial, granted him the Gustav Nachtigal medal, ex aequo with the noted German geographer Fritz Kühn, for his contributions to Earth Sciences. In 1929, he published the first volume of his landmark work, « Geología Argentina » (Ed. Peuser, Buenos Aires).

Dr. Windhausen working circa 1926

At that time he also worked as a private consultant for the U.S. company Electric Bond and Share Co. for building a dam in Anisacate, Córdoba.

He was one of the founders of the Mining and Geology Society of Argentina. He traveled to Germany in late 1929, invited by the famous German geographer Albrecht Penck, to finally receive the Nachtigal medal. In January of 1930, he lectured on « Bau und Bild Patagoniens » at the Society in Berlin, presented by Penck himself.In 1931, he published the second volume of his « Geología Argentina » devoted to regional and historical geology.

For decades, the two volumes of this work were an obligatory source for scholars and a textbook on the subject. The book incorporated his visionary application of Wegener’s theory of continental drift to the geological interpretation of South America.

In April of 1931, through the University of Córdoba, he proposed to YPF the establishment of a scholarship program for students of natural sciences, which benefited several generations of Argentine geologists as of 1932.

After making a trip to Southern Patagonia in the summer of 1931-32, he suffered a stroke. Anselm Windhausen died at the German Hospital in Buenos Aires on April 2, 1932, just eighteen days before turning 50.

In 1935, a jury of which later Nobel Prize winner Bernardo Houssay was a member, gave him a posthumous National Science Prize for his "Geología Argentina."

(This text written by his grandson, Rodolfo A. Windhausen, is based on documents in
Dr. Windhausen's collection, which is preserved in the United States.)
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Arbeiten zu Dr. Windhausen
Obras sobre Windhausen

Du Toit, A. L., review of “Geología Argentina, Segunda Parte,” Geological Magazine, No. 812, volume LXIX of the whole series, February 1932, London.

Sparn, Enrique, “Bibliografía de la geología, mineralogía y paleontología de la República Argentina,” Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, 1920-28, 1937, 1942.

“El yacimiento de carbón de Río Turbio,” Secretaría de Industria y Comercio, Dirección General de Combustibles Sólidos Minerales, Buenos Aires, 1947.

Storni, Carlos D., “Doctor Anselmo Windhausen en el 15º aniversario de su muerte,” Revista de la Sociedad Geológica Argentina, tomo II, No. 2, abril de 1947, Buenos Aires.

Groeber, Pablo, “Personalidad científica de Anselmo Windhausen,” Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geográficos (GAEA), 1957, Buenos Aires.

Borrello, Angel V., “Contribución de Windhausen a la paleogeografía de la Patagonia,” Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geográficos (GAEA), 1957, Buenos Aires.

Castellanos, Alfredo, “Influencia de los científicos alemanes en el desarrollo de las ciencias naturales en la Argentina,” Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Instituto de Fisiografía y Geología, serie A, No. 5, notas, Rosario, 1970.

“Windhausen y la cuenca neuquina,” Revista Nosotros (YPF), año I, no. 3, noviembre de 1972, Buenos Aires.

“YPF, una empresa al servicio del país,” Álbum del Cincuentenario de Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF), Buenos Aires, 1972.

“Medio siglo y seis años después (La conferencia de Windhausen,” Diario Río Negro, martes 22 de octubre de 1974, General Roca, Río Negro.

García Castellanos, Telasco, “Historia de la enseñanza de las ciencias geológicas en la Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina,” (typescript) Papers, IUGS (International Committee on the History of Geological Sciences), fifth Scientific Meeting, 1974, Madrid.

Hünicken, Mario A. “Anselmo Windhausen y su contribución al conocimiento de la geología argentina,” Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, Boletín No. 57, entregas 1-4, 1986, Córdoba.

Vladi, Firouz: “Anselm Windhausen - zum 100. Geburtstag eines Harz-Höhlenforschers (Geologische Untersuchungen in der Einhornhöhle in Scharzfeld am Südharz in den Jahren 1905-1907). Heimatbl. f.d. südwestl. Harzrand, 37: 22-32; Osterode 1981.

“Homenaje a Anselmo Windhausen,” Revista Norte Geológico, Colegio de Graduados en Ciencias Geológicas de Tucumán, director Dr. Florencio G. Aceñolaza, año V, enero-abril 1982, Tucumán.

“Anselmo Windhausen, un pionero olvidado,” Diario Río Negro, domingo 18 de abril de 1982, General Roca, Río Negro.

Some works by Dr. Anselm Windhausen
Algunas obras del Dr. Anselmo Windhausen

Die Einhornhöhle bei Scharzfeld a. Harz, Der Harz, 14 Jg., H. 3, 5 p. 75-88, Magdeburg, 1907.

Die geologischen Verhältnisse bei den Ausgrabungen in der Eninhornhöhle. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 39 Jg., H. 4 u. 5, 5., 540-543, Berlin, 1907.

Die geologischen Verhältnisse der Bergzüge westlich und südwestlich von Hildesheim (Dissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde), August Lax, Hildesheim, 1907, Mitt. aus dem Roemer-Museum, id. 1907.

El yacimiento de rafaelita en Auca Mahuida, Ministerio de Agricultura, Dirección General de Minas, Geología e Hidrología, Bo. 1, Boletín, tomo XIV, No. 10, Buenos Aires, 1912.

Contribución al conocimiento geológico de los territorios del Río Negro y Neuquén, Ministerio de Agricultura, Anales, Sección Geología, Mineralogía y Minería, Tomo X, No. 1, Buenos Aires, 1914.

Einige Ergebnisse Zweier Reisen in den Territorien Río Negro und Neuquén, Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie, Beilage-Band XXXVIII, Stuttgart, 1914.

Die geologischen Verhältnisse der Argentinischen Petroleumlagerstätten (Vortrag), Jahresbericht 1914 des Argentinischen Vereins Deutscher Ingenieure, Buenos Aires, 1914.

Los yacimientos petrolíferos de la zona andina (Prov. de Mendoza y territorio del Neuquén), Ministerio de Agricultura, Dirección General de Minas, Geología e Hidrología, Boletín No. 15, serie B (Geología), Buenos Aires, 1916.

Consideraciones generales sobre el límite entre el Cretácico y el Terciario, Primera Reunión de la Sociedad Argentina de Ciencias Naturales, Tucumán, 1916 (resumen), en Actas, Buenos Aires, 1918-1919.

Eindrucke von der Weltausstellung in San Francisco, Argentinisches Wochenblatt, 18 Mai. bis 2 Juni. 1916, Buenos Aires.

Líneas generales de la estratigrafía del Neocomiano en la Cordillera Argentina, Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, Boletín, tomo XXII, Córdoba-Buenos Aires, 1918.

Sobre la presencia del Devónico en la parte media de la República del Paraguay (con el Dr. Roberto Beder)¸ Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, Boletín, tomo XXIII, Córdoba-Buenos Aires, 1918.

The problem of the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in South America and the stratigraphic position of the San Jorge-Formation in Paragonia, American Journal of Science, volume XLV, No. 265, January 1918.

Apuntes sobre la historia geológica de la planicie costanera en la Patagonia septentrional, Diario La Época, Buenos Aires, lunes 18 de octubre de 1920.

Informe sobre un viaje de reconocimiento geológico en la parte nordeste del territorio del Chubut, con referencia especial a la cuestión de la provisión de agua de Puerto Madryn, Ministerio de Agricultura, Dirección General de Minas, Geología e Hidrología, Boletín No. 24, Buenos Aires, 1921.

Ensayo de una clasificación de los elementos de estructura en el subsuelo de la Patagonia y su significado para la historia geológica del continente, Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, tomo XXV, Córdoba-Buenos Aires, 1921.

Geología del Cerro Lotena, Auca Mahuida y Covunco, centro del Neuquén, Revista “Petróleos y Minas”, I, Nos. 7 y 8, Buenos Aires, 1921.

Eine Blick auf Schichtenfolge und Gebirgsbau in Südlichen Patagonien, Geologische Rundschau, Band XII, FET 3/5, Leipzig, 1921.

Estudios geológicos en el valle superior del Río Negro, Ministerio de Agricultura, Dirección General de Minas, Geología e Hidrología, Boletín No. 29, serie B (Geología), Buenos Aires, 1922.

Geología del Cerro Lotena, Auca Mahuida y Covunco, centro del Neuquén (continuación), Revista “Petróleos y Minas”, Nos. 10, 11, 12 y 13, Buenos Aires, 1922.

Cambios en el concepto de las condiciones geológicas del yacimiento petrolífero de Comodoro Rivadavia (comunicación preliminar), Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, tomo XXVII, Córdoba-Buenos Aires, 1923.

Líneas generales de la constitución geológica de la región situada al oeste del golfo de San Jorge, Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, tomo XXVII, Córdoba-Buenos Aires, 1924.

El nacimiento de la Patagonia, Diario del Plata, miércoles 9 de julio de 1924, Buenos Aires.

Apuntes sobre el sistema hidrográfico del río Senguerr, Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geográficos (GAEA), Anales, No. 4, Buenos Aires, 1925.

Einige Linien der geologischen Entwicklungsgeschichte Patagoniens im Lichte neuerer Forschungen, 17. Jahresbericht des Niedersächsischen Geologischen Vereins zu Hannover, Hannover, 1924.

La expedición oceanográfica alemana del Atlántico en el buque “Meteor”, Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geográficos (GAEA), Anales, No. 4, Buenos Aires, 1925.

Informe sobre las posibilidades existentes para el aprovisionamiento de agua en Puerto Camarones (Territorio de Chubut), Ministerio de Agricultura, Dirección General de Minas, Geología e Hidrología, Publicación No. 20, Buenos Aires, 1926.

Rasgos geológicos y morfológicos de la región del lago Nahuel Huapí, Sociedad Argentina de Estudios Geográficos (GAEA), tomo II, No 2., Anales, Buenos Aires, 1925.

Las antiguas conexiones de la Patagonia, Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Córdoba, boletín No. 28, tomo XXVIII, Buenos Aires, 1925.

Consideraciones generales sobre la hidrografía de la provincia de Córdoba y partes adyacentes, Revista “Ingeniería Civil”, I, Córdoba, 1928.

-Geología Argentina, primera parte: Geología General o Dinámica, Ed. Jacobo Peuser, Buenos Aires, 1929.
-Geología Argentina, segunda parte: Geología Histórica y Regional del Territorio Argentino, Ed. Jacobo Peuser, 1931.

Bau und Bild Patagoniens, Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin, Jahrgang 1932, Nr. ½, Berlin, 1932. (*)

Apuntes sobre la zona petrolera de la Patagonia meridional, Boletín de Informaciones Petroleras de Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YP), Buenos Aires, julio de 1935 (*).

(*) Posthumous publications. Publicaciones póstumas.

Vladi, Firouz: Anselm Windhausen - zum 100. Geburtstag eines Harz-Höhlenforschers (Geologische Untersuchungen in der Einhornhöhle in Scharzfeld am Südharz in den Jahren 1905 - 1907).- Heimatblätter für den südwestl. Harzrand, 37: 22-32; Osterode 1981.

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