This work is aimed to highlight and publish the Collection of Thin Sections of Soils obtained by Prof. Walter Kubiëna during his several stays, between 1943 and 1970, in theWalter Kubiena in Madrid. Click on it to get a larger image. former Institute of Pedology and Plant Biology (Instituto de Edafología y Biología Vegetal) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC, Madrid). In addition, it contributes to the celebrations of the Spanish Soil Science Society (SECS) related to 2015 International Year of Soils (UN Declaration A/RES/68/232).

Walter Ludwig Konstantin Ritter von Kubiëna (1897-1970), born in the former Moravia, began his studies in 1922, graduating in Soil Science and Geology at the Hochschule für Bodenkultur in Vienna and the University of Vienna, respectively. In 1927 he received his Ph.D. degree and in 1930 he started teaching under Prof. Dr. H. Kaserer at the Hochschule für Bodenkultur in Vienna. In 1937 he became “ausserordentlicher Professor” at the Department of Geology and General Soil Science and in 1941 full professor of Geology  at the same institution.

A sample of a soil thin section. Click on it to get a larger image.From the beginning Kubiëna thought that the microscope had to be employed in the study of soils, because it is a whole, and its partial or modified study did not allow its global knowledge [Obituary on Prof. Kubiëna: Ángel Hoyos de Castro, Anales de Edafología y Agrobiología (1970) XXIX, 753-765]. This led him to develop a procedure for observing the soil without disturbing it, developing a sampling technique (called Kubiena boxes) and to prepare thin sections for its observation and study. After a stay at the University of Iowa (USA) as a visiting professor in 1937, he published the book entitled Micropedology, key work and start point of the science called Soil Micromorphology. According to Kubiena, different soil types should have different microstructures that would serve for their characterization. With these ideas he began his explorations around the world to study the soils, always accompanied by a small microscope to recognize them in the field.

As a result of his deep knowledge of soils, Kubiëna faced the problem of their classification and thus, in 1953, wrote the book 
The Soils of Europe, published simultaneously in German (Bestimmungsbuch und Systematik der Böden Europas), English and Spanish (Claves Sistemáticas de Suelos). In 1955 he became Director of the Department of Soil Science of the Federal Forest Research Centre in Reinbeck (Hamburg, Germany). There he was visited by numerous researchers from other countries to learn micromorphology, including Altemüller (Germany), Jongerius (Netherlands), Brewer (Australia) and FedoroffSample of a watercolor painting. Click on it to get a larger image (France). The Spaniards Hoyos de Castro, Delgado, Paneque, Alías and Benayas were part of the list of his distinguished pupils.

 For his scientific career, Kubiëna received many awards and honors. The Alfred Toepfer Foundation awarded him with the Justus von Liebig Prize; he was honorary member of the 
CSIC and of the Soil Sciences Societies of Austria and Germany, and Doctor "honoris causa" of the Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) and Santa María de Rio Grande (Brazil). The Kubiena Medal is the only medal awarded by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) and is given for outstanding and sustained performance in the discipline of soil micromorphology.

This document includes a literal transcription of the manuscript completed in 2002 by Drs. Benayas and Martin Ramos on the work of Prof. Kubiëna, as well as the photographs of the collection trays made by Mr. Antonio Jorge (2014). The greatest scientific value of the present publication is mainly due to the cooperation of Prof. Carlos Dorronsoro (Department of Soil Science, Univ. of Granada), who made the navigable macroimages and microphotographs (2014-2015).

The original thin sections of this collection are deposited in the Institute of Agricultural Sciences (Instituto de Ciencias Agrarias, ICA), former Institute of Pedology and Plant Biology (Instituto de Edafología y Biología Vegetal), and are part of the historical heritage of the 
CSIC. The same institute also maintains the original watercolor paintings made by Gertrud Kallab and Anton Prazak, included in the book The Soils of Europe.

M. Teresa García González
Director, Institute of Agricultural Sciences
Spanish National Research Council
Madrid, January 2015

Additional information for the reader

These pages are composed of a general table (accessed through the link shown above as
Inicio Home) containing a list of all trays and thin sections, with the same structure of the original work sheets. The table shows several photo-camera symbols that link to pages showing trays and thin sections. In addition, all displayed images are linked to larger ones, or to navigable macroimages and microphotographs. Text in remaining pages has not been translated into English.

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