3. department of zoology

encompasses the invertebrate collections with the exception of insects in the broadest sense (Hexapoda). The 5 collection divisions are the Arachnoidea, Crustacea, Evertebrata Varia, Mollusca, and Myriapoda. Based on historical grounds the Mollusca collection also harbors the Tunicata and Bryozoa, and the Arachnoidea collection also encompasses the Pentastomida. The Evertebrata Varia collection contains both the “Protozoa” as well as several phyla of multicellular invertebrates. In almost every sector, the zoological collections at the Natural History Museum Vienna are among the internationally oldest, largest and most significant. Our objects, in particular the molluscs and corals, extend back to the dawn of scientific collections from the 18th century. Prominent personalities from that era include the collectors Jean de Baillou (1684-1758) and the universal scholar Ignaz von Born (1742-1791).

In the 19th century, the collections grew prodigiously through collections compiled by expeditions, explorers, gifts as well as through purchases. Those deserving special mention in our department are Johann Natterer‘s (1787-1843) Brazil expedition (1817-1835),the global circumnavigation of the Frigate Novara (1857-1859), the exploitation of the research projects in Spitzbergen and in the Arctic, as well as the collections of the research vessel Pola in the Mediterranean (1890-1894) and in the Red Sea (1895-1898). Personalities such as the “worm doctor” Johann Gottfried Bremser (1767-1827) and Carl Diesing (1800-1867), the zoologists Georg von Frauenfeld (1807-1873), Rudolf Sturany (1867-1935) and Emil von Marenzeller (1845-1918), and the private scholar Richard von Drasche (1850-1923) contributed significantly to this upswing.

The fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy went hand in hand with decisive changes for the former Imperial Court Museum. The interwar period, marked by economic hardship, led to financial and staff shortfalls. This, however, had little influence on the research being conducted at the Zoological Department: notable scientists were hard at work in the invertebrate collections. Otto Pesta (1885-1974) established himself as a recognized limnologist and crustacean specialist. Hermann Spandl (1899-1926), assistant in the Crustacea collection, published excellent papers. Carl von Attems-Petzenstein (1868-1952) published standard works for millipede specialists around the globe, Wolfgang Adensamer (1899-1964), curator of the Mollusca collection, conducted studies on the history of land snail faunas.

During the Second World War the collections were evacuated in haste and often in disarray into the basement of the museum building; some collection rooms were hit by bombs and the furnishings damaged. Several museum curators had been involved in bitter political intrigues before and during the “Anschluss” to Hitler Germany. After the war this led to staff shifts. It proved to be a long and arduous task to order the neglected collections and libraries and make them once again accessible. Hans Strouhal (1897-1969), who was the director of the Zoological Department and appointed First Director of the house in 1952, deserves special recognition and thanks for his achievements in this respect. He specialized in the systematics of terrestrial isopods.

The following decades were marked by a range of new research focuses. Erich Kritscher (1927-2010) examined, beyond the spider and scorpion fauna of the eastern Mediterranean realm, the fish parasites of the lakes Neusiedlersee, Mondsee and Attersee. Oliver Paget (1922-2011) studied the land snails of the Aegean islands. Erhard Wawra (1945-1994) directed his research efforts on the snails inhabiting marine interstitial sands, Gerhard Pretzmann (1929-2013) dealt with freshwater crabs. From 1993 to 2002, Jürgen Gruber headed the Arachnoidea collection. His research focus was on harvestmen, but also on diplopods. Verena Stagl headed the Myriapoda Collection from 1995 to 2013 and successfully conducted numerous studies of the history of science. She provided an important foundation for our understanding of the collection’s history and of the history of science in general, including the worldviews behind them.

Due to its large size, the original Zoological Department was administratively split into three divisions in 1972: 1st Zoological (vertebrates), 2nd Zoological (insects) and 3rd Zoological Departments (invertebrates).