Dr. Rauh's name has been closely associated with the University of Heidelberg, the science of botany and particularly the University Botanical Gardens since the post-war period. He was a respected scientist in the classical disciplines of systematics, morphology and geography of plants. His preferred objects of investigation were cacti and other succulent plants of the deserts of the Americas and South Africa, the bromeliads of the South American rain forests and the fascinating plant world of the tropical high mountain regions. They were subject to his treatment in countless scientific papers, fascinating lectures, and popular-scientific books.
Born in Niemegk near Bitterfeld (Saxony), Werner Rauh showed an early interest in geography and biology and studied in the city of Halle under the great morphologist Wilhelm Troll. After receiving his doctorate in 1937 and his professorship in 1939, he came to Heidelberg as an assistant to A. Seybold in 1939.
Associate Professor Werner Rauh began his overseas research activity during the reconstruction of the University of Heidelberg, traveling first to the Atlas mountains of North Africa, and then to Peru and Ecuador. In 1956 he received appointment to full professorship while on his first expedition to the island of Madagascar and an offer of directorship of the famous botanical garden and botanical museum in Berlin - Dahlem. He declined the offer to remain at the University of Heidelberg. Subsequently in 1960, he received the newly created chair at the institute of Systematic Botany, Plantgeography and Botanical Garden of the same name. There were only three greeenhouses when he began his service as Director of the botanical garden. The collection increased until his retirement to 15 greenhouses filled with botanical treasures – a large section of it collected by him on numerous expeditions to the tropical and sub-tropical regions of almost the entire world. The garden became world famous and since 1983 has been under the directorship of his successor, Professor Peter Leins.
The published works of Werner Rauh contain more than 300 items, including two dozen books. Emphasis was on the tropical high regions as well as the plant world of Peru and Madagascar; these regions he researched during numerous expeditions and returned to Europe with an abundance of plant material. He discovered and described many new species of plants, and many of his discoveries were named after him. The Amaryllis genus Rauhia, the cactus Rauhocereus in Peru, and the orchid Rauhiella in Brazil are some examples as is Tillandsia rauhii, an enormous bromeliad from Peru. The beautiful Aloe rauhii from Madagascar has found its place as a decorative plant in succulent plant collections everywhere. The plants named after him belie his interests: Cacti and other succulents as well as bromeliads.
His outstanding illustrated books of these groups of plants are regarded today as standard literature.
Dr. Rauh's numerous accomplishments brought him international recognition. He is an honorary member of numerous societies and for many years was President of the International Organization for Succulent Plant Studies. The Republic of Peru and the Principality of Monaco both awarded him with medals. On the occasion of his 65th birthday he received the "Cactus d’Or" in Monte Carlo from the hands of Princess Grace. The golden Veitch Memorial Medal of the Royal Horticultural Society in London and the Willdenow Medal in Berlin are awards received for his accomplishments during his service as director of the botanical garden. He was still accumulating honors right up to the year of his death.
The Republic of Madagascar distinguished him in January 1999, through its Ambassador, His Excellency Rabesa, by awarding him the prize of " Knight of National Order" and in November he received the "Federal Distinguished Service Cross with Ribbon" from the hands of the mayor of Heidelberg, Beate Weber.
Since 1980, Werner Rauh was a corresponding member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and since 1968 has had a special and close relationship with the Academy of Sciences and Literature in the city of Mainz as a regular member.
His last great expedition in 1994 took him to Madagascar, but the time of great expeditions was coming to an end. His energy remained undiminished however, despite the inexpressible loss of his wife Hilde Rauh during the summer of 1997. During his last years he was busy with the completion of the second volume of his magnificent work, published in 1998, titled Succulent and Xerophytic Plants of Madagascar. It is fascinating eye-witness documentation of Madagascar's unique flora at a time when it is fast disappearing.
In spite of severe physical suffering but with complete mental alertness, Professor Rauh continued to work on his manuscripts right up until his death and made weekly visits to his beloved botanical garden. An era of botanical research has ended with his death.
Funeral services were conducted among the closest circle of family and friends on Friday, April 28, in Heidelberg.
We mourn the loss of a remarkable human being and scientist.
Botanisches Institut und Botanischer Garten, Abt. Systematik und
Biodiversitaet Meckenheimer Allee 170, D-53115, Bonn, Germany