Who was František Xaver Zippe?

The beginning of VŠB-TUO is connected to the personality of an important geologist - František Xaver Zippe.

Since the day when Emperor Franz Josef I signed a decree on the establishment of two montane schools in Přibram and Leoben nearly a decade passed before the teaching at the new school in Přibram was commenced. Although Alois Lill of Lillienbach became the interim director of the non-existent school, the first real director, František Xaver Zippe, was appointed Professor of the Royal Czech Estates School. Although he was only very briefly at the head of the school, his honourable position is not only in this history, but also among the important personalities of Czech science.

Using his full name, František Xaver Maximilián Zippe was born on November 15, 1791 in Falkov (today´s Kytlice) near Česká Lípa to the family of a butcher and an innkeeper. From 1804 he studied at a grammar school in Dresden. During this period, he began to show an interest in natural science, especially in minerals. He earned the nickname Stein-Zippe (Stone Zippe) from his classmates. In 1807 he began to attend the Philosophical Faculty of Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. He continued his studies at the Polytechnic Institute in Prague, where he became adjutant at the Institute of Chemistry in 1819. Here Zippe gained basic knowledge about bleaching, fermentation and agrarian chemistry, and also about ferrous metallurgy. In 1822 he was entrusted with giving lectures on mineralogy and geonostics (geology).

Zippe soon made contact with Count Kašpar Šternberk, one of the foremost personalities of Czech science and a co-founder of the Prague National Museum in Bohemia. In the year 1819 Zippe was entrusted with moving the setting up the museum´s mineralogical collection and five years later he was named as the administrator of the mineralogical and geological collections. Zippe began to dedicate himself to scientific work. He annually went on study trips to various parts of Bohemia and brought back earth deposits, minerals and fossils for the museum. He also further lectured at the Polytechnical School. Part of the museum´s collection became the Zippe collection of minerals from the state and abroad (around two and a half thousand of them), which he had created since his youth.

Zippe is considered the founder of scientific mineralogy and geology in the Czech lands. He put together a collection of minerals, which at the given period were among the greatest in Europe. Among his discoveries there are two at-that-time unknown minerals, a uranium bloom from Jáchymov, which was later named in his honour zippeit and allemontite (from the area of Přibram). He dedicated special care to his collection of Czech minerals. In the year 1828 he issued the publication The Influence of Mineralogical Science on Art and Industry and its Previous and Current State in Bohemia. He was the first in Bohemia who began to study minerals from a crystallographic point of view. His first crystallographic study on azurite was published in the year 1830 in the Discourses of the Czech Royal Society.

A thorough acquaintance with the geological conditions of the individual Czech Regions led him to survey the geological formations in Bohemia, which he published in the the year 1831 in the Proceedings of the Czech Royal Society of Science. A year later he submitted to the public his first geological map of Bohemia, which was completed and corrected in further years (especially the area of eastern Bohemia). Zippe´s geological map of Bohemia was never published, and probably stayed in manuscript form and was not preserved. As an author he was also featured on other maps, such as the Earth Maps of Bohemia for the benefit of the national industrial schools (1850). Natural Science, Industrial and Earth Maps of Bohemia (1850) and others. Zippe also first submitted an orthographic and geological description of the individual regions of Bohemia in a volume of J. G. Sommer´s Das Königreich Böhmen, which was issued in the years 1837 - 1842. He similarly worked on the basis of the museum´s mineralogical collection in the years 1837 - 1842 using Bohemian mineralogy, which was issued in a German museum magazine. He worked on the occurrence of minerals in individual mountain regions, vulcanized and iron-ore regions and geological sections. His mineralogical treatise analyzed entire series, for example information on the occurrence of Bohemian garnet, work on Bohemian meteorites, etc. In the year 1835, he worked as the museum´s custodian and dedicated himself as the administrator of the museum´s collection until his departure from Prague in the year 1849. He became co-author of the main work of Count Kašpar Šternberk Outlining the History of the Bohemian Mining Industry (1836 - 1838).

He was one of the first researchers who dedicated himself to a more thorough examination of coal deposits in the Czech Lands, especially the coal seams in the Kladno region. He prepared a geological foundation which the Austrian state administration used for prospecting work in coal basins in the 1840s. In the year 1842 he published Black Coal, its Value, its General Importance and its Distribution in Bohemia. A series of works were especially dedicated to the nature of the Ore Mountains and Central Bohemian iron ore deposits. His maps were used as a basis for the first geological map of the monarchy set up in the year 1847.

Zippe was also connected to the reforms in teaching natural science at secondary schools, and not only through expertize articles, but mostly through the authorship of the textbook Natural Science for Lower Secondary Schools. The book was first published in the year 1844 in the German language and in three editions (1856, 1861, 1862) in Czech translations, which were arranged by Zippe´s pupil geologist Jan Krejčí. In the year 1846 Zippe published a popular scientific work Instructive and Fun Papers for Field Stewards, which was determined for the wider public, especially farmers, woodsmen and building technicians. In it he worked out a method of studying rock formations and soils and the most important foundations of mineralogy.


In the year 1849 Zppe was selected as the head of the newly founded Montane College in Přibram. He was named director on August 31, 1849 and a month later he undertook his administrative oath.  This position was taken over from Alois Liil of Lillenback, whose main job was to ensure the adaption of the buildings of the archbishop´s chateau, in which the school was located. Among Zippe´s main tasks was completing the proposal for setting up the montane academies in Přibram and Leoben, working out the teaching programme and ensuring staff for the school.

In the middle of October an extensive organizational set of regulations was issued together for both montane schools. according to which in the first year there should be lectures on mine measuring, studies in the mining industry, mining engineering and mining law basics, and in the second year there were studies in metallurgy and assaying. In the selection for a professor in the mining industry there was chosen Karel Hejrovský, a mining machine inspector of a plant in Přibram. The ceremonial opening of lectures with the participation of 40 students was held on November 12, 1849. However, Zippe only worked in Přibram not even a full year. In the year 1850 he was named professor of mineralogy at Vienna University and left the school in Přibram. Zippe became an acknowledged scientific personality. His pioneering work was the volume The History of Metals in the year 1857, in which in terms of a wider context he wanted to prove how metals have played a role in cultural history. He perceived the history of natural science as part of world history created by humans. He emphasized that progress in recognizing geology depends on mining activities. At the same time he also dedicated himself to analyzing iron ore with a content of precious and useable metals, their processing and use.

He also gained a number of awards for his scientific achievements at home and abroad. In the year 1847 he was named a founding member of the Viennese Imperial Academy of Science and in the year 1848 he was promoted to an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy at Charles- Ferdinand University in Prague. Emperor Franz Josef I awarded him the Knight´s Cross in the year 1851 and in the year 1855 he was awarded a title from the government council. His social activities were also important. At the Viennese University he started a foundation to support talented and poor students. Zippe died in Vienna on February 22, 1863 and was buried in the cemetery St. Marxer. Through his works he became one of the foremost founders of scientific mineralogy and geology in Bohemia. He name is rightly mentioned among the seventy-two most important personalities, whose names are written in gold letters under the window of the National Museum in Prague

TEXT: Petr Kašing

PHOTO: Archives of VŠB-TUO, internet





Created: 11. 9. 2019
Category:  News
Entered by:  Mgr. Irena Havelková
Department: 9230 - University International Office