2007 Honorary Membership Award Recipients
Wighart v. Koenigswald
|Photo courtesy of Wighart v. Koenigswald.
Wighart started to collect fossils as a schoolboy, inspired by his uncle G.H.R. v. Koenigswald. He studied geology and palaeontology at the universities at Bonn and Munich and in Munich he received his PhD for a thesis on European marsupial teeth. While appointed to a postdoc position at the University of Tübingen he changed his field to Pleistocene mammalian faunas. He participated in two expeditions into the Canadian High Arctic, in cooperation with archaeologists, in order to experience the extant arctic fauna. Working in the department of A. Seilacher in Tübingen, Wighart was deeply involved in questions concerning constructional morphology. There he discovered the beauty of tooth enamel microstructure in vole teeth.
In 1977 Wighart moved to the Museum in Darmstadt where he became the curator for the collection and for excavations in the Eocene oil shale of Messel. At that time Messel was planned to be (mis)used as Europe's biggest landfill. However, intensive excavations produced several mammalian skeletons that were studied and described. Among them were the famous apatemyids with their elongated fingers. In addition, Wighart continued studies on Pleistocene faunas and especially those on enamel. He received his "Habilitation" at University of Frankfurt for a monograph of the enamel of arvicolids, and after continuous teaching there received the title of an honorary professor.
Wighart toured several museums in America and Australia to get a decent overview of mammalian enamel, where he collected wonderful material by the help of many colleagues.
In 1987 Wighart assumed the chair of palaeontology at the University of Bonn. Vertebrate palaeontology has been marginally significant in Bonn, but with several excellent students working on mammalian and saurian tooth enamel, and other aspects of vertebrate palaeontology, Bonn became active and attracted several awardees of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation. Wighart led his students on excursions to India and to Wyoming, where he cooperated in the field with Ken D. Rose. He retired in 2006 (at the age of 65, as mandatory in Germany) but he continues with intensive research, especially on the evolution of mastication.
Wighart is member of the Crakow Academy of Sciences. Larry Martin invited him to join the SVP 1977. He has participated in many annual meetings and often with several of his students. Wighart was active as a foreign officer in the SVP. He served as Associate Editor of the JVP from 1991-1993.