Hans Kugler (22nd Aug 1893-16th Dec 1986)

Trinidad and Tobago Icons Vol 2

Dr Hans Kugler’s devotion to geology and palaeontology1, the advancement and worldwide promotion of research on Trinidad and the compilation of a Geological Map of Trinidad in 1961, earned him the title “Father of Trinidad Geology”. Fifty-one species contain the scientific designation kugleri and two genera2 are named in honour of their discoverer.

Hans Gottfried Kugler was born in Baden, Switzerland on 22nd August, 1893. He was schooled at St. Gallen and the Untern Realschule3, doing field-mapping and fossil collecting for the Natural History Museum of Basel in his spare time. He began tertiary studies in geology at the University of Basel in 1912, coming to Trinidad in November 1913, where he battled malaria and beriberi4 to aid Dr August Tobler in his mapping exercises for the Central Mining and Investment Corporation of South Africa. Kugler returned to the university in May 1914, completing his Middle Examinations in 1916 and graduating with his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Geology in 1920.

In 1921, Kugler returned to Trinidad where he mapped the “Apex anticline” for the Apex Oil Company, leading to record-breaking yields. He moved on to the Trinidad Petroleum Development Company in 1925, and with his guidance, it too struck oil in Palo Seco. He left the newly prosperous company for the Central Mining and Investment Corporation, which assigned him to work under their subsidiary, North Venezuelan Petroleum. His geological team survived humid jungles to produce detailed maps and discovered the Tucoyo oilfield in 1925 and the Cumarambo field in 1931.

In 1928, Kugler invited Conrad Schlumberger to demonstrate his electrical logging5 method in Trinidad on behalf of Trinidad Leaseholds Limited (TLL), which became routine oilwell drilling practice. His suggestions led to the establishment of a biostratigraphic6 laboratory in Pointe-à-Pierre in 1929, after he was appointed Chief Geologist of TLL.

Kugler convinced TLL to publicise its findings at the risk of financial loss, an essential move for the worldwide development of micropalaeontology7 and oil geology. He sent samples and research materials to be archived in museums around the world, especially the Natural History Museum in Basel.

Also at Kugler’s prompting, TLL introduced aerial photo-interpretation to Trinidad in 1936, and built new laboratories. In 1939, Kugler was involved in border settlement negotiations over the ownership of Patos Island and Soldado Rock in the Gulf of Paria and the location of the Trinidad/Venezuela border. The settlement that followed won Trinidad drilling rights in the Gulf of Paria, a drilling zone which later turned out to be extremely productive. He also organised the first Caribbean Geological Conference in 1939.

In 1956, Texaco took over TLL and Kugler departed Trinidad for Switzerland in 1959, leaving behind his masterpiece – a 1:100,000 map of Trinidad that integrated years of geological mapping, research and photo-interpretive data. Officially published in 1961, the map was the geological standard for 35 years.

Kugler served as Vice President of the Geological Society of America from 1954 to 1955. He was Honorary Game Warden for Trinidad until his departure and he became an Honorary Member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1968.

At the Museum of Basel, Kugler reorganised collections, planned new exhibitions and established a section for Caribbean geological documentation and research. He aided John Saunders in establishing the Micropalaeontological Reference Collection and continued his research on Trinidad and the Caribbean until his death

Hans Kugler passed away on 16th December, 1986 at the age of 93. He published 57 papers, more than any geologist in Trinidad and Tobago to date.




  1. The science of the forms of life existing in former geologic periods, as represented by their fossils
  2. The plural of genus, which refers to a collection of species
  3. Sixth Form High School
  4. A nervous disorder caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 and which is marked by pain in and paralysis of limbs, and either unnatural thinness or swelling of the body
  5. Schlumberger pioneered the use of electrical instruments to measure rock and fluid properties in an oil well, using this data to locate the depth and composition of oil reserves
  6. Pertaining to the study and categorisation of rock strata based on their fossil content and distribution
  7. The palaeontology of microscopic organisms