History and Present of the Department of Geology and Mineral Resources

Published on Monday, 16 April 2012

The predecessor of the recent department was the Department of Mineralogy-Chemistry-Metallurgy (Mineralogie-Chemie-Metallurgie) of the Mining Academy at Selmec (recently Banská Šťiavnica in Slovakia) established in 1763. This department gave a frame for the education in mineralogy and geology at a university level first in Hungary (and also worldwide) with such famous professors like Nicolaus Joseph Jacquin (1763–1769) or Giovanni Antonio Scopoli (1769–1779). The latter wrote his famous book Crystallographia Hungarica during that time. In the following period the most well-known professors were Anton Ruprecht (1779–1792) and Alois Wehrle (1820-1835) who gained an international prestige for mineral analyses since the ultramafic rock, wehrlite got the name after him.
Due to the reorganizations in 1841 the Department of Mineralogy-Geology-Paleontology was separated. From 1843 János Pettkó, an excellent scientist and teacher became the leader of the department. Many of his students made a carrier and became famous experts, and the education in Hungarian was introduced also under his leadership in 1867. The following leaders of the Department were Benő Winkler (1871–1899) and Hugó Böckh (1899–1914). The latter first dealt with mineralogical, petrographical and paleontological research, and during his stay in Selmec he wrote the two-volume book titled Geology, which was, that time, one of the most up-to-date summaries. After leaving Selmec he became world-famous for hydrocarbon exploration in Iraq and Iran.
During the leadership of István Vitális (1914–1941) the Academy moved to Sopron because after the First World War Selmecbánya became part of Slovakia. Due to reorganization the Department of Geology and Mineral Resources became independent from 1923. Between the two World Wars Vitális dealt with coal exploration and he revealed the 20 percent of the one billion tons of Hungarian coal reserves. The next head, Miklós Vendel (1941–1959), an expert on magmatic ore deposits, led the department until the Mining Faculty left Sopron.
After having moved to Miskolc, first Tibor Pojják (1959–1962) as mandatory, followed by Ferenc Benkő (1962–1968), then Aladár Földvári (from 1968 until his death in 1971) led the department. The latter dealt with the complex study of Oligo-Miocene schlier deposits of Hungary. The next leader, Richárd Richter (1971–1978) having arrived from the Department of Mining Exploration strengthened the engineering and hydrogeological direction due to first of all by integrating József Juhász into the staff. Zoltán Némedi Varga, an outstanding expert of coal geology led the department from 1978 to 1981, then Attila Somfai (1981–2001), a well-known specialist on hydrocarbon geology followed him. During his leadership, in 1988, the Department of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology was segregated and the Department of Geology and Mineral Resources moved to its recent place.
From 2001 János Földessy became first the head of the department, then from 2007 also the head of the Institute of Mineralogy and Geology integrating the Department of Geology and Mineral Resources on one hand and the Department of Mineralogy and Petrology on the other. In this period the Bologna type education system has been introduced while in research the main emphasis was given to the investigation of solid mineral resources (mainly ores). The department itself has been led from 2009 by György Less who is specialized on the geological mapping of North Hungary and on Paleogene stratigraphy.
The main emphasis in the education of the department is given to professional courses of the BSc and MSc in Earth Sciences and Engineering, which can be supported – due to the above research directions and the geographical position of the university – with rich field practice. Industrial and basic researches are also used in PhD courses and in talent development. The department actively participates in different professional societies and has an intensive contact also with public organizations of different ages first of all to ensure the supply of students.

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