Obituary of Dr. habil. Gesa Hartmann-Schröder

A silhouette of Gesa Hartmann-Schröder (1931 – 2022) from 1965. © Archive, LIB


The highly esteemed Hamburg scientist, Gesa Hartmann-Schröder, passed away recently at the age of 91. Her life’s work is a key part of the LIB Annelida collection, and still shapes annelid research today. We remember her and her scientific achievements. An obituary by Dr. Jenna Moore, Head of the Annelida Section at the LIB in Hamburg.

Dr. habil. Gesa Hartmann-Schröder was an expert in the systematics and taxonomy of polychaetes (marine annelids) and worked from the mid-1950s until her retirement in 1996 in the Taxonomic Working Group at the Zoological Museum and Institute of the University of Hamburg, which became the present Museum of Nature Hamburg. During her exceptional career, she became the most prolific polychaete taxonomist in history, having described 518 species in more than 100 publications. Together with her husband, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gerhard Hartmann, a specialist in Ostracoda, she undertook numerous expeditions to South America, Africa, Australia, the Antarctic, and elsewhere. At least 20 species and three genera were named in her honour, reflecting her significant contributions to annelid research.

One of the few published photographs of Gesa Hartmann-Schröder together with her husband Gerhard from the 92nd volume of “Mitteilungen aus dem Hamburgischen Zoologischen Museum und Institut”. © Archive, LIB


In 1995, a special edition in honour of the Hartmann couple was published in the “Mitteilungen aus dem Hamburgischen Zoologischen Museum und Institut” (92nd volume), edited and prefaced by Dr. Dietmar Keyser and Prof. Dr. Robin Whatley. In addition to research articles and reminiscences, the volume also includes a lively account of the couple’s journey to the Alaskan wilderness in 1987, written by their friend and travel companion Prof. Dr. Claus-M. Naske. Following her retirement from the Zoological Museum and Institute in 1996, she and her husband returned to his hometown of Goslar in the Harz Mountains. Gerhard Hartmann passed away in 2010, and Gesa Hartmann-Schröder passed away this year, on 5 June 2022, at the age of 91.

Gesa Hartmann-Schröder’s valuable and extensive specimen collection remains in the care of the Annelida Section of the Museum der Natur Hamburg, which is now part of the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (LIB). Her scientific legacy includes important worldwide records and species descriptions of polychaetes that have already influenced several generations of scientists. Her two volumes “Polychaeta”, published in the series “Die Tierwelt Deutschlands”, are still regarded by experts as an important reference for the annelid diversity in the North and Baltic Seas.

She was an extremely accomplished researcher, and an inspirational figure for me as a woman in science. Her type collection has made the Annelida collection at the LIB one of the most important in the world, and her specimens will continue to be cared for and used in research for many years to come. Dr. Hartmann-Schröder is remembered fondly by her students and colleagues in the annelid research community, not only for her substantial and remarkable scientific contributions and achievements, but also as an intelligent, warm, generous and helpful colleague, mentor and teacher.


Dr. Jenna Moore


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