Founding of the Conrad Observatory

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In memory of Victor Conrad

The new observatory is named after the famous geophysicist Victor Conrad. Victor Conrad is known in Seismology for his discussions with Harold Jeffreys on a possible boundary in the Earth’s crust, which became later known as the Conrad-discontinuity. However, there is much more to his person, than that.

He was born on August 25, 1876. In 1896 he inscribed at the University of Vienna to study Biology – and later on under the guidance of Franz Exner, Viktor Lang and Ludwig Boltzmann – he studied Physics and completed his studies in 1900.  Shortly afterwards, in 1901, he became employed as University Assistant at the ZAMG where he found himself confronted with research tasks of Physical Meteorology. In 1904 the ZAMG became responsible for the seismic monitoring of the Austrian-Hungarian territory, and Victor Conrad was appointed Head of Department. During this time Conrad developed an own small version of a seismograph – the Conrad-pendulum, capable of recording stronger ground motions.

Victor Conrad


In 1910 he was appointed as Professor for Cosmic Physics at the University of Czernowitz, now Chernivtsi in the southwest Ukraine. After the fall of the monarchy he served again at the ZAMG. During the following years Conrad concentrated on seismological research which culminated in his paper “Laufzeitkurven des Tauernbebens vom 28.N ovember 1923” where he detected P*-waves leading him to suggest the Earth’s crust consists of two layers. The separation of these layers became world-wide known as the “Conrad discontinuity”. The Anschluss of Austria to the German Third Reich in 1938 caused Conrad to leave Europe. Beno Gutenberg – a student of Emil Wiechert – assisted him when settling down in the U.S.A. From 1939 to 1940 Conrad worked at the Pennsylvania State University, Department of Meteorology. The history of this department shows that Conrad’s research was highly appreciated. From 1940 to 1942 he joined the New York University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago and finally the Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where he worked as teacher and researcher until the age of 80. He died in 1962. Conrad’s scientifical lifework comprises more than 240 papers in the fields of  Meteorology, Climatology and Seismology.



*) Hammerl, Christa & Lenhardt, Wolfgang: Victor Conrad and the Seismological Service of Austria. Proc. of XXIX ESC General Assembly (Potsdam 2004).
*) Hammerl, Christa:
Victor Conrad – First Head of the Seismological Service of Austria at ZAMG. Proc. of European Geosciences Union, General Assembly (Vienna 2005).
*) Hammerl, Christa: Victor Conrad and the Seismological Service of Austria. Proc. of ICHST 2009 – XXIII International Congress of History of Science and Technology (Budapest 2009),
*) Hammerl, Christa: Victor Conrad – Seismology and Climatology between Vienna, Czernowitz and USA. Proc. Ignaz Lieben Workshop 2010 TU Wien.
*) Hammerl, Christa, Lenhardt, Wolfgang, Leonhardt, Roman & Granser, Harry: Austria’s new earth observatory dedicated to Victor Conrad. EAGE. First Break (2011) p. 31-32.