The Crafoord Prize 1992

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Crafoord Prize for 1992 to Professor Adolf Seilacher for his innovative research concerning the evolution of life in interaction with the environment as documented in the geological record. The Crafoord Prize (2.3 million SEK) will be awarded on the Crafoord Day, October 1, 1992.

Adolf Seilacher belongs to the great founders of schools of method and thinking in the geosciences. He was a student of O. H. Schindewolf´s, who dominated European evolutionary paleontology about the middle of the century. Adolf Seilacher´s research aimed from the beginning at understanding the interplay of extinct organisms and their life environment. This research led to breakthroughs in understanding the evolution of life and has developed a flexible and sophisticated methodology.

Seilacher investigates imprints that organisms made as traces of life activities in the geological environment and by interpreting them reconstructed the environment. He also investigated the influence of geological evolution on the life environments, thereby mapping out essential conditions for the evolution. He found among other thins similar behavioral and constructional adaptations in animals belonging to different evolutionary lineages. He finds requirements posed by the environment to be met by the specific constructional details and developed methods to characterize these constructions and derive the requirements, which they met.

Fossils are often poorly preserved, but Seilacher found new and meaningful information by studying the causes and processes of their degradation. The over 600 million year of Ediacara Fauna found in Australia was subjected to his special scrutiny; it turned out to consist, among other things, of a surprising array of traces made by organisms and remains of organisms that cannot be placed in living categories like animals and plants.

Seilacher has broken new ground in different branches of paleontology. His holistic approach to the biosphere and environment, as will as his precise and, where possible, rigorous methods have greatly influenced research on evolution all over the world. He has numerous students and followers in different countries that are successfully employing his approach and methods.