Hartge, Karl H

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Karl Heinrich Hartge


Karl Heinrich Harte 1926 (Dorpat, Estonia) - 2009 (Garbsen, Germany)


Born in Dorpat (Estonia) on the 18th of March 1926, Karl Heinrich Hartge finished highschool in 1946 in Diepholz/Lower Saxony and graduated at the Technical University of Hannover in Horticulture in 1955. His extraordinary scientific career started at the Institute of Soil Science, Hannover, where he earned his PhD (Dr. rerum horticulturarum) in 1958 in the institute of the famous Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. Paul Schachtschabel.

In 1963, Karl Heinrich Hartge finished his Habilitation Thesis about the effect of soil structure on pore size distribution, a subject which in those days was mostly unknown. In 1965 he was appointed Professor of Soil Physics at the Technical University of Hannover, where he worked until his retirement in 1991.

Besides his intense research and ambitious teaching, Professor Hartge also found time to serve the German Soil Science Society as the Chairman for Soil Physics and Soil Technology and as their President for 4 years. Elected 1982 in New Delhi/India as the President of the International Soil Science Society for 4 years, he organised the International Congress in Hamburg in 1986. In the same year he was awarded the prestigious Dokuchaev Medal through the Russian Soil Science Society. He earned thereafter also numerous honorary memberships from Germany, the International Union of Soil Science, and the Institute of Agrophysics, Poland, for his outstanding contributions to soil science and untiring activity for these soil communities.

After his retirement in 1991, he became the foundation director of the Center for Agricultural and Landscape Research (ZALF) in Müncheberg, Germany, which he reorganized after the reunification of Germany. He also served as a guest Professor for Soil Physics in Rostock, Germany, and Vienna, Austria.

On the 18th of November 2005, Prof. Dr. Karl Heinrich Hartge received the Honorary Certificate (Dr honoris causa) of the Christian Albrechts University zu Kiel in recognition of his outstanding scientific career as a soil scientist, researcher, and teacher. For his most prestigious award, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Horst Köhler, honoured him on the 3rd of April 2009 with the Grand Cross 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) in recognition of his outstanding scientific achievements as well as for his social activities for the Baltic community in the widest sense.

Hydrological Achievements

Karl Hartge concentrated on the analyses and documentation of soil physical properties and processes in structured saturated and unsaturated soils under various climatic and land use conditions. He published more than 150 reviewed papers and uncounted book chapters. He developed and wrote 2 books on soil physics in German, which are still the standard textbooks for students in the various soil related education systems. The 4th edition of the book, Soil Physical Experiments and Measurements (Bodenphysikalisches Praktikum), was just recently published, and he was one of the active authors. He also prepared the rewriting and further conceptual improvement of the 4th edition of Introduction to Soil Physics (in German), in order to update the scientific content and its documentation.

His internationally accepted and honoured outstanding knowledge, which was not only in soil physics but also reached far beyond this discipline, is documented in numerous chapters in various books, as well as in the famous textbook, Scheffer Schachtschabel: Lehrbuch der Bodenkunde (Soil Science textbook), which was co-authored (chapter: soil physics) by him for 32 years. He had restless interests in soil scientific questions. His excellent analysis of problems or possibilities to define for soil physics a capacity/intensity parameter, which would gain an identical acceptance in soil science like the pH value in soil chemistry, dominated his data analyses up to the very last days. It was always impressive for all of us, when he underlined his new findings with hand drawings and corresponding hand written information and discussed in great detail the new insights.

Fourteen PhD students were privileged to be guided and educated by Karl Heinrich Hartge and to gain their scientific background from him. He was a real promoter and doctor father in the best sense for all of them. His presence and his wisdom, his encouraging information, helpful discussions, corrections, and recommendations occurred in an outstanding scientific and social atmosphere and guaranteed new scientific insights, as well as formed the basis for their own careers as professors in Kiel, Hannover, and Valdivia/Chile or on the advisory boards within various research and administrative organisations and research institutes.

Professor Hartge can be without any doubt called the father of soil physics in Germany, which is also documented by his enormous activity and guidance of additional research groups initiated by him.Their success is based on his fundamental knowledge of soils and their physical processes.

Reference Material

Taken from obituary by Prof. Dr. Rainer Horn, President German Soil Science Society

Major Publications