In 1912 the Paläontologische Gesellschaft was founded on the initiative of the Greifswald palaeontologist Otto Jaekel. This scientific society should give weight to palaeontology as an independent, biologically oriented subject, without neglecting its origins in geology.

A similar institution had already existed in England since 1847, so the step from the German side was long overdue. However, the foundation did not take place under national aspects, but was rather already internationally oriented by its founder - at least with regard to the German-speaking area and its neighbouring countries. At the first annual meeting in Halberstadt in autumn 1912, 34 of the 143 members met. In addition to the international networking of palaeontology, the annual conferences and the publication of the "Paläontologische Zeitschrift", which has been published since 1914, are the central tasks of the Society.

The two world wars naturally meant deep cuts. During the First World War and the emergency period that followed, the annual meetings from 1914 to 1920 had to be cancelled. According to the international demand the annual meeting 1928 could take place in Budapest. The interest of the neighbouring countries in our Society was also expressed, among other things, by the almost constant number of 80 foreign members in addition to about 130 German members over the years.

The period of National Socialism is a very dark chapter, although palaeontology could not be misused ideologically. For political reasons some palaeontologists lost their jobs, some probably even their lives. Of those who were forced to emigrate, only the names of F. Zeuner and T. Edinger are mentioned here. This meant a great loss for palaeontology in Germany. In the reports on the meetings and thus in the "Palaeontological Journal" ideological phrases are found only very exceptionally. In 1938 the society was renamed "Deutsche Paläontologische Gesellschaft". However, the name only appeared on the title page of three volumes. From 1940 to 1949, no annual meetings could be held because of the war and its consequences.

In 1950 the annual rhythm was resumed with a conference in Munich. For members from the GDR, it became increasingly difficult to attend the meetings and from 1961, with the construction of the Wall, it became impossible. At the same time, they were forbidden to join a "Western" society. The Society suspended their membership and found ways to deliver at least part of the journal to them nevertheless. Thus, after the reunification the membership could be revived immediately. It was significant that no independent specialist society for palaeontology - such as for geology - had been formed in the GDR. The separation was quickly overcome and the bridge proved to be fully viable again as early as 1991, when the conference was held in the Natural History Museum of the Humboldt University in Berlin.

Because of the international aspirations that were already being pursued at the time of its foundation, the Society held many of its Annual Meetings in neighbouring countries (Basel 1982, Budapest 1994, Eggenburg 1991, Graz 1972, Louvain-La-Neuve 1986, Maastricht 1978, Newcastle upon Tyne 1967; Prague 1993, Vienna 1954 and 1963, Zurich 1965 and 1999). Nevertheless, independent palaeontological societies were founded in Switzerland and then in Austria in 1966, which, among other things, pursue national interests.

The Paläontologische Gesellschaft was founded as a professional society and has a high academic standard. Members who have excelled in the subject may be applied for "honorary membership". Outstanding foreign members are honoured as "Corresponding Members". For palaeontology, however, the many laymen as collectors are also of great importance. Thus the Paläontologische Gesellschaft opened itself especially to this group and since 1984 has been awarding the "Karl v. Zittel Medal" to outstanding collectors and amateur palaeontologists.

The professional specialization and the desire for meetings in the circle of immediate professional colleagues led to the foundation of various working groups, for example on palaeobotany or vertebrate palaeontology. The Paläontologische Gesellschaft has so far successfully fought to ensure that these working groups feel part of society and do not become independent, so that the importance of the Society as a representative of the subject is not diminished. The Paläontologische Gesellschaft has the right to propose subject reviewers to the DFG (German Research Foundation) and in acute cases it stands up for the interests of the subject. When saving the Messel pit at the end of the 80s, she was able to successfully put her weight into it.

The "Palaeontologische Zeitschrift", which has been published regularly since 1912, has undergone continuous development over the years. This is evident not only in printing technology and format, but also in the editing. Whereas previously the journal could be edited by the elected secretary alone, it made sense to expand the staff in 1987. In 2000, an obligatory "peer review system" was introduced in order to meet all international standards and thus give the journal its appropriate weight. The number of articles written in English also rose steadily, although some members regretted with concern the decline of German as a means of scientific communication. The increasing specialisation in the subject meant that the articles published in the journal threatened to become more and more specialised. In order to maintain the general character of the journal, special emphasis was placed on review articles.

In the seventies, the need grew to enable communication between members via an up-to-date newsletter in addition to the scientific journal. Since 1980, the inexpensively produced "Paläontologie aktuell" has fulfilled this purpose and also allowed personal statements on current topics. It was published twice a year together with the magazine. In 2000, "Paläontologie aktuell" was merged into "GMIT" (Geowissenschaftliche Mitteilungen), a joint newsletter of the geoscientific societies in Germany, which now appears every quarter. "Palaeontologie aktuell" is continued on the homepage of the company thanks to modern technology on the Internet.

In 2002, the number of members fluctuated around the 1000 mark, of which a gratifyingly large number (about 15%) are based abroad. Since 2006 the number of members has always been well over 1000, currently 1067 people are members of the Paläontologische Gesellschaft.


Paläontologische Gesellschaft
Weismüllerstr. 45
60314 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: 069 / 400 3019 71
Fax: 069 / 400 3019 74
Email: geschaeftsstelle(at)palges.de
Internet: www.palges.de

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