April 11, 2023

The Memorial Service for Dieter Stöffler has been scheduled for Tuesday, 9 May 2023, at 13:00 hours (Berlin time). It will take place in the Chapel of Waldfriedhof Zehlendorf (Wasgensteig 30, 14129 Berlin).

It is with profound sadness that we have to report that our dear friend, mentor, and colleague Dieter Stöffler passed away on the evening of Wednesday, 5 April 2023, in the presence of his loved ones – his sons Bernd and Dirk Stöffler and his partner Heide Schmidt-Schuberth. Dieter had retired from the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin in 2004 but remained very active in research and contributed to postgraduate supervision until about 2018, when he became ill. He succeeded to the age of 83. He is survived by his partner, Heide Schmidt-Schubert, his two sons Dirk and Bernd, and granddaughter Luca.

Dieter Stöffler must be considered a true beacon of planetary science in general, and one of the outstanding members of the Meteoritical Society. We assume that his name is well known to the majority of members, as synonymous with “Ries impact crater, shock metamorphism, lunar science, meteoritics, and litho-panspermia”. He enjoyed a truly exceptional career. From 1974-1987 he was Professor of Petrography and Economic Geology at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU) in Muenster. Then he became the founding Director of the Institute of Planetology and Professor of Cosmic Mineralogy at the WWU. In 1993 he transferred to the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin and became Professor of Mineralogy and Petrography at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HUB). He was Director of the Museum until 1999, and of the HUB Institute of Mineralogy until 2004, when he officially retired and became Professor Emeritus. Milestones in this cycle were the establishment of the Münster Institute of Planetology, and the restauration of the East Berlin Museum für Naturkunde to a world-class research and outreach institution. He successfully supervised not less than 20 Diploma/MSc theses and 30 Doctoral projects, published extensively, and provided the funding for a host of prestigious research projects.

Foremost, in this regard, must be ranked his seminal work on shock metamorphism. He and Wolf von Engelhardt established the concept of progressive shock metamorphism at – where else? – the Ries crater. This was followed up by Dieter with a huge number of petrographic studies on terrestrial impactites, lunar breccias, and meteorites. His shock classifications for major rock-forming minerals have been put to use by a generation of researchers since. His petrographic findings were calibrated by series of shock recovery experiments. And in the last decades, numerical modeling was widely employed by his group in cratering and shock studies. Dieter´s legacy was built on the application of four lines of research: Crater geological, petrographic, shock experimental, and numerical modeling studies.

Over five decades of active research, with numerous postgraduate students and post-docs, and in frequent collaboration with often international colleagues, Dieter Stöffler completed numerous projects, some of which involving large groups in the form of consortia. Some of the most memorable achievements of this work included crater studies – Sudbury, Haughton, West Clearwater, and a suite of Scandinavian craters. But throughout his career, the Ries continued to feature. Dieter was the Principal Investigator of the ICDP´s Yaxcopoil-1 Drilling Consortium at Chicxulub. He classified Apollo rock collections from the Moon, and extensively researched the shock effects and shock histories of meteorites. He was involved with pilot studies regarding asteroid and comet sampling missions, in close collaboration with ESA and NASA committees. The rather successful Rosetta mission to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was initially based on Dieter´s groundbreaking committee work. Together with scientists from the DLR (Deutsches Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrt) and Ernst-Mach-Institut für Kurzzeit-Dynamik Dieter developed a test program for the Lithopanspermia hypothesis that suggested that primitive lifeforms could sustain high shock conditions, a fundamental requirement for transfer of life between planetary bodies. This is only a sampling of Dieter´s achievements.

In this short appreciation of Dieter Stöffler, his dedication to public education and outreach must take a prominent place. Dieter spearheaded the establishment of a first-class planetary science museum in the city of Nördlingen, in the Ries crater, and followed this up by the development of the ZERIN (Zentrum for Ries-Krater-Forschung in Nördlingen) facility. These institutions have since been the foundation for the creation of the national Geopark Ries – ultimately matured in 2021 into a Global Geopark Ries. Dieter took over the helm of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin in 1993 and initiated a reawakening of this formidable institution after its slumber during East German times.

During his career, Dieter Stöffler was awarded the full national and international recognition for his achievements. In 1989, he received a highly prestigious Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Price from the German Science Foundation. In 1991 followed a Letter of Honor from the City of Nördlingen for achievements in Ries crater research, and the asteroid 4283(1988) was named “Stöffler” in his honor by the International Astronomical Union. The Barringer Medal for Impact Cratering Research was bestowed on Dieter by the Meteoritical Society in 1993, and in 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the Society. In Germany, Dieter was elected a Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in 1995, and a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 1998. Finally in 2003, he received the Ries Cultural Award for outstanding achievements in Ries crater research. Dieter Stöffler served the Meteoritical Society for many years. In particular, he and his team organized a memorable Annual Meeting of the Society in Berlin in 1996. Furthermore, he served as President of MetSoc in the 1997-1998 term.

When reflecting about the person Dieter Stöffler, the following characteristics immediately come to mind: dedication (to science endeavor and education), striving for the best outcome possible – in everything, living for scientific exchange, and especially enjoying working with young people. Dieter´ office door was always open, when he could afford it! Dieter formed lasting scientific relationships, but above all, lasting friendships. He taught us so much, including how to do science right. For so many of us he has been a motivator and singular example. Dieter Stöffler – thank you for your long-lasting support. You have been a cornerstone in our lives, and you are missed by us and by so many others.


Wolf Uwe Reimold

Natasha Artemieva

Lutz Hecht

Thomas Kenkmann

Falko Langenhorst

Kai Wuennemann


Categories: In Memoriam, People