w.e. krumbein

biographical sketch


Wolfgang Elisabeth Krumbein (wek) was born in München on π-day (03.14) as son of Karl Anton Krumbein (Salzburg) and Carmen Rita Rodenacker (Danzig), and as an offspring of Lady Jane Ellenborough (né Digby) and Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg (here). He spent his school time at the Landschulheim am Solling (LSH) bei Holzminden, a private boarding school emerging from the youth movement at the end of the 19th Century.


He studied history and history of Arts in München, Geology, Geochemistry and Microbiology in München, Würzburg, the Institut Pasteur and the Sorbonne, Paris. He received his B. A. degree in München, the M.Sc. and Ph. D. degrees in Würzburg. He passed a Post-Doc year at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem in the Departments of Botany, Geology, Microbiology and Soil Science. After that he joined Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, the oldest marine research institution of Germany and lived 6 years on Helgoland.


In 1974 he was nominated Professor of Geomicrobiology (probably the first chair of this kind worldwide) at Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg. Despite several attractive offers he stayed there for more than 30 years now. He enjoyed sabbatical leaves as a visiting Professor at Hebrew University Jerusalem, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, University of Messina, Sicily, and the State University of St. Petersburg, Russia. The consulting company BIOGEMA on cultural heritage and assets was founded in 1985.

In 1987 Krumbein generated (jointly with his collegues Ebenhöh, Höpner and Zeeck) the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) and was elected founding Director. Initially the idea was to initiate an Institute of Geophysiology. This, however, seemingly was premature. In order to return to scientific work he passed on directorship to his collegue and friend Ulrich Kattmann and then to Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber. In 1995 he was elected founding member and Professor of the Institute of Philosophy.

Over the years of his scientific career he worked and still works in the fields of Biogeochemistry, Material Ecology and protection of cultural heritage, Microbiology, Paleontology, Geology, Sedimentology, Soil Science and Theory of Science. The disciplines of Astro/Exobiology, Geomicrobiology, Geobiology and Geophysiology emerged during his work, an evolution to which Krumbein added to some extent.


Over his scientific life he published more than 400 scientific papers with more than 150 M. Sc. and 50 doctorate students. He edited more than 15 books and organised more than 75 mostly international scientific conferences and symposia. All this was made possible through more than 100 national and international research grants awarded to him and his group and by several finally rejected offers of other universities and research institutions to join them instead of Carl von Ossietzky University.


His activity is devoted to all processes and phenomena where microbes alter mineral objects or have an influence on surface colonization, material degradation, and neo-mineral formation. Recently special attention is given also to molecular ecology, bioreceptivity and biodiversity of microorganisms damaging art and archeology materials as well as extreme desert sites, exobiology and remote sensing. He has worked and published further in marine biology, marine microbiology, sedimentology, biomineral formation and mineral degradation. Krumbein was actively involved in the development of the German Space Programme and was a consultant for the government under contract of Booze, Allen and Hamilton CONSULTING. He participated in the genesis of the Life science programme of NASA and was Co-director of three NASA courses on Planetary Biology and Microbial Ecology (PBME). Krumbein also was for more then ten years the chairman (Obmann) of the air pollution board of the German Union of Engineers (VDI). He has published in more than 130 different scientific Journals. He was/is associate editor of two and member of the editorial board of 5 other International Journals. Krumbein served twice as president of the German National Board of Marine Sciences (KLMN). He is recipient of the Pasteur medal, Knetsch-Prize, Credner-Prize, and the Lise Meitner - Alexander von Humboldt-Prize. Krumbein is a Professor honoris causa of the Lomonosov University, Moskwa, and a Dr. honoris causa of Gdansk University, Poland. He is honorary member of ICOMOS-Russia and of the Society of Natural History, St. Petersburg.


Krumbein is fluent in English and French, speaks some Hebrew and Italian and even a little Russian. He has supervised and/or co-refereed more than 80 doctorate theses of students from Austria, Australia, Egypt, France, Greece, Iran, Israel, Italy, Korea, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the USA, and -naturally- Germany who defended doctorate theses in the fields of geology, microbiology, marine ecology, conservation science, and philosophy (history) of science.


Wolfgang Elisabeth Krumbein takes pride in the fact, that without any help by any student or collaborator he has been a member of three amateur Chamber Orchestras as a violon cello player, produced more than 4000 water colours (*) (**) (***) and poems, had two (selling) exhibitions and three sessions of reading his own poetry. Finally he is proud to have been involved in the education of 5 children and several grandchildren.

selected events

1974 Exhibition Galerie Burgstraße Oldenburg, Aquarells (with Karin Hubert, glass)
1974 Pasteur-Medal
1975 Credner-Prize
1975 Exhibition Galerie Wildenloh, Aquarells
1987 Georg-Knetsch-Prize (Plinius)
1979-1988 Chairman Pollution of Material board VDI (National Union of Engineers)
1987 Founding Director of ICBM
1996 Founding member of Institute of Philosophy, Oldenburg
1991-1996 Advisor for Akropolis Committee, Athens, Greece
1992-1994 Work with French Archeology Institute on Delos
1997 Lise Meitner - Alexander von Humboldt Prize
1999 Honorary Member ICOMOS Russia
2001 Professor honoris causa Lomonosov University, Moscow
2002 Dr. honoris causa University Gdansk
2002 First volume of poetry and CV published
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