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Born Aug. 20, 1831, in London; died Apr. 26, 1914, in Vienna. Austrian geologist.
Suess graduated from the Vienna Polytechnic School in 1852. From 1857 to 1901 he was professor of geology at the University of Vienna; from 1898 to 1911 he was president of the Vienna Academy of Sciences. In 1873 he became a member of the Reichsrat. Suess studied the geological structure and tectonics of the Alps, of the Lombard depression, and of the Apennines. In 1875 he published The Origin of the Alps, in which he developed his ideas about mountain building on the basis of the contraction hypothesis, which explained tectonic processes and folding as the result of the cooling and contraction of the earth. In his principal scientific work, The Face of the Earth (vols. 1–3, 1883–1909), Suess summarized all the regional research conducted in various countries to the early 20th century and described the ideas about the structure and development of the earth’s crust in continental areas based on the contraction hypothesis. This work had considerable influence on the development of various branches of theoretical geology. Suess received the P. P. Semenov Gold Medal from the Russian Geographical Society and the C. Lyell Gold Medal from the London Royal Academy for the third volume of The Face of the Earth.
Many concepts introduced by Suess, such as those of the sima and sial shells of the earth, eustatic fluctuations of the sea level, Variscan folding, the Tethys, and the Karpinskii lines have been preserved in geology. His conclusions about regional geology, however, particularly his idea about the ancient nucleus of Asia and the relations between folding, are obsolete.