The first professor of palaeobotany

SKMBT_C224e15112510452-1How the ownership of coal mines led Karl to academic achievements.

Karl Rudolph was born at the right time and in the right place: In 1881 he was born into the family of Teplice architect Hermann Rudolph, who was just finishing the design for a new local synagogue, and work on the construction of a train station on the Ústí nad Labem to Teplice track was waiting for him a short time later. Just like other gentlemen with connections to the railway, he participated both in governing the town and in developing business.

It was the family’s share in lignite mines that inspired the young Karl to choose his specialisation in studies. He completed grammar school in Teplice; then, as a son from a prominent family, of course, he studied in Vienna. It was there that he began focusing on botany and geology.

Testing a new method for determining the age of a soil sample based on pollen grains was the breakthrough in his relatively mundane career. This successful method enabled Rudolph to precisely determine the evolution of the landscape first in the Ore Mountains and then elsewhere. In this way, Rudolph brought Czech geology standards to the highest levels, comparable with the quality of Swedish researchers, traditional leaders in the field.

In 1924 Karl Rudolph was appointed the first professor of the field of palaeobotany at the Karl-Ferdinand University. His name is still respected among experts. The Prague laboratory of palaeoecology at the Faculty of Science at Charles University was named after him in 2014.

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