František Pošepný (1836-1895)

Personality in Science section

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Board member, prof. František Pošepný is considered to be one of the creators of the world’s sedimentation geology. He is well-known for his scientific impact even abroad. He was born on 30th March 1836 in Jilemnice. He studied in Liberec and Dvůr Králové, later attended Grammar School in Prague and Polytechnic Institute in Prague.

Since 1857 he continued his studies at Monetary Training Institution in Příbram where he focused mainly on lectures about sedimentation geology presented by Johann Grimm, director of the school. In 1859 he graduated and was accepted to work in state service. He began with his own scientific work which he could connect to practice. In 1860 he was transferred to Mining Directorate in Cluj as mining practitioner and with pauses worked there till 1869. In 1870 he was appointed chief geologist for Hungary with its seat in Banská Štiavnica. He researched many Slovak ore deposits and genetic phenomenon, especially at Magurka, Španá Dolina, Kremnice and Nová Baňa. After disagreements at Mining Directorate in Banská Štiavnica in 1874, he gave up his position and worked as a geologist at Ministry of Plowing and Mining in Vienna. In 1879 he suggested a proposal on the necessity of involving Sedimental Geology studies to Austrian Mining Academies and the proposal was accepted. A new department was established in Leoben and Příbram and Pošepný was responsible for these departments. Pošepný was sure that the current classifying of ores based on their shapes and ore content is not sufficient. Opinions on ore origins were rather confusing and did not explain all phenomenon and criteria on ore forecasts. Based on his own experience and knowledge, he began to establish a new classification system where he classified deposits according to their genesis.

Based on his experience, business trips, observations, evaluation and generalisation, he could formulate rules and principles of ore deposits origins as a professor of Mining Academy in Příbram. As the task was very demanding, stressful and time-consuming, it affected his health conditions. He worked at Mining Academy in Příbram from 1879 to 1889. In 1879 he received Mining Council Title and in 1887 he was appointed professor in the field of Special Geology of Deposits and Analytical Chemistry.

He brought up a generation of mining engineers, focused on explorations of Příbram ore mines and other Czech mining areas. Unfortunately, he suffered from lung disease and heart disease. In 1888 he applied for one-year vacation due to health reasons and in 1889 he had to retire. He was awarded Řád Železné koruny (Order of the Iron Crown) for his lifetime work. He left for Vienna where he continued in his comparative studies of ore deposits, visited mining regions in Russia, Germany, Italy, Sardegna, France, England, Norway, Sweden or Palestine. His worsening heart disease led to his death on 27th March 1895, when he died at the age of 59 in Vienna. He was buried in the family grave in Jilemnice as he wished.

An important chapter of his life was his work at Mining Academy in Příbram. He wrote more than 100 books or journal titles. All his studies and articles could serve as a preparation for his comprehensive work including a typology of ore deposits and its derived theories. Two of his works are still valuable - book “Genesis of ore deposits“ which first published in 1893 in Chicago in the US, in Czech the book was published in 1927 and 1986. The book focused on the theory of ore deposits evolution. His second book on Czech gold-bearing deposits named “Goldvorkommen Böhmens und benachbarten Ländern“ was published after his death in 1895. The book was only a part of his intended work on all ore deposits. Pošepný significantly contributed to defining knowledge in fields of Stratigraphy, Regional Geology, Hydrology and Mining. The current generation of deposit geologists still follows his teaching as he was a founder of modern schooling of ore deposits. All major professional works on deposit geology and its history bear his name. Česká akademie věd (Czech Academy of Sciences) gives Gold and Silver awards bearing František Pošepný name for merits in Geology and Geographical Sciences.

Author: PaedDr. Josef Velfl, ředitel Hornického muzea Příbram