Suess, Eduard (1831-1914) was an Austrian geologist who helped establish the basis for tectonics and paleontology. He was the first to propose the existence of the giant early southern land mass, Gondwanaland.
Suess was born in London, in 1831. His Austrian family moved to Prague in 1834. He attended the University of Prague. From 1851 to 1857 he was an assistant at the Royal Natural History Museum in Vienna. In 1857, he was appointed assistant professor of paleontology at the University of Vienna, and served as full professor of geology from 1861 to 1901.
Up to the mid-1800's, geologists thought that vertical uplift and volcanic activity had created mountain ranges. However, in his book The Origin of the Alps (1857), Suess stated his belief that mountain ranges were formed by the folding and faulting that resulted from horizontal movement of the lithosphere. Volcanic activity was a consequence of the mountain building.
Suess noticed that fossils of Glossopteris, a fern from the Carboniferous period, were found in Australia, India, South Africa, and South America. The fossils showed no genetic mutations, and he hypothesized that the only way this specimen could be common to lands divided by such great expanses of water would be if they had once been part of a great supercontinent. He named the continent for the supposed aboriginal Indians, the Gonds, and the ancient land mass became known as Gondwanaland. He deduced that continents originally must have been much wider, and broke down, thus forming the ocean basins.
His Das antlitz der erde (The Face of the Earth, 3 volumes, 1882-1909) detailed his theories on the structure and evolution of the lithosphere, tracking ancient changes in the continents and seas that resulted in the earth's modern features.
He was elected to the Vienna city council in 1863, and that year he proposed the building of an aqueduct to bring fresh water from the Alps to the city. The aqueduct was completed in 1873, and the number of deaths from typhoid dropped dramatically. He was also instrumental in the construction of the Danube Canal in 1875, which eliminated major floods from Vienna.