2022 Mary C. Rabbitt History and Philosophy of Geology Award

Presented to Marianne Klemun

Marianne Klemun

Marianne Klemun
Department of History, University of Vienna


Citation by Gregory A. Good

Professor Marianne Klemun well deserves the Mary C. Rabbitt Award of the Geological Society of America for 2022. Marianne is a member of the Department of History of the University of Vienna, Austria, a cultural historian of science, with a primary focus on sciences based in the field and in museums. She has contributed much to the organizational work that supports the history of geology community.

Marianne completed degrees at the University of Vienna, in history, German language and literature, and history of art, biology, and geology. She became an assistant professor in 1992. In 2002 with her Habilitation, she became a professor (Ao.-Prof.) in the Department of Modern History, University of Vienna.

Marianne’s publications concern the history of botany, mineralogy, and natural history museums, as well as meteorological collaboration. In history of geology, Marianne has published on Eduard Suess, the Austrian Geologische Reichsanstalt, and alpine geology. Her first INHIGEO presentation concerned mineralogical travels in the Carpathian Mountains in the 18th century. Every study by Marianne portrays “geology” in its different cultures of “erdwissenschaftlichen Wissen.” Of her 175 publications (so far), most are single author, but many are collaborations, a tribute to Marianne’s commitment to building community.

Marianne has been active in INHIGEO, the International Commission for History of the Geological Sciences, since 2003. She has been a member of the Board of INHIGEO since 2016 and served as the Secretary General of the Commission. She is Vice President of INHIGEO for Europe. She served HESS (The History of the Earth Sciences Society) on the nominating committee from 2009 to 2012. She is also a member of the Board of the Austrian Society of History of Science.

Prof. Marianne Klemun stands out among historians of geology, for the deep context of her research, for her commitment to the international community of historians of geology, and for her many faceted and often enlightening historical publications.


Response by Marianne Klemun

I am pleased to be able to respond to this award given to me. First of all, I would like to thank those persons (all unknown to me) who nominated me. I probably know them, but they have shown absolute discretion. My thanks also go to the Award Committee, who deemed my work worthy of this honourable prize, and especially to Greg Good for his kind citation.

I was extremely surprised to learn of the nomination through awards manager Darlene Williams. Even after the positive decision, I am still astonished. This has many reasons: my research was and is not only dedicated to the history of geology but to broader, more general topics, such as travel as a tool of knowledge, early Alpinism, spaces of knowledge (such as botanical gardens), communication (as in the case of my book on the metropolis of Vienna based on geologist's diary). Cross-cutting questions, such as those of practices, the role of collecting and translating observations into notes or maps, the relationship between politics and science, were relevant to geology. Furthermore, my approach to the history of science is based on cultural-scientific and socio-theoretical concepts rather than those common in the discipline. My focus on the Habsburg Monarchy or on its territories (especially Carinthia, Slovenia, Romania), concern spatial and thematic entities that have so far been less discussed in the predominantly English-language history of science. I am all the more pleased that my hybrid orientation and my specific profile have been and still are being recognised.

It was David Oldroyd who first invited me into the international community of the history of geology. He had heard my 2002 keynote lecture in St. Petersburg on the courtly collection of minerals in eighteenth-century Vienna and considered my narration on the connection between mining and imperial consciousness innovative. Thus, prompted by him, I was elected a member of INHIGEO, a circle I came to appreciate for the colourful international and disciplinary mix of its members. Repeatedly challenged by David, I became more involved in the field of the history of geology than I had planned. Not only was I enriched by David's vital willingness to discuss, but I was also extremely inspired by many stimulating conversations with other members, not all of whom I can name here. For this I am very grateful.

Looking through the list of awardees, I find the names of prominent researchers whose inspiring works I studied and to whom I am greatly indebted. To be included in this list is a very special and overwhelming honour. I am pleased the GSA (like many other societies) features a geologist's hammer in its logo. It is precisely this instrument to which I have also dedicated a study. Like no other tool, it embodies the specifics of geology as a field science in transformation. It would be timely if a woman were also visible in the GSA logo holding a hammer. However, the list of awardees does contain a high proportion of women historians of science, and I am now proudly and humbly a part of it.