The oldest material in the collections of the Palaeobotanic Section of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum goes back to Eduard Rüppell early in the 19th century. The plant fossils were initially kept in the general paleontological collections however Hermann Theodor Geyler, who published repeatedly on plant fossils, brought the palaeobotanic material together for the first time in the 1870’s in a separate section. Following his death in 1889 the material returned to the general geological and paleontological collections.
Paleobotany at Senckenberg owes its revival, and rise, to present importance mostly to the activities of Richard Kräusel. He received his PhD shortly before the 1st World War in Breslau (today Wroczław) by submitting a dissertation on fossil wood. He became a school teacher in Frankfurt am Main after the war in 1920. After settling in Frankfurt, he immediately started multifold palaeobotanic research in close contact to the Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft (SNG) which is today the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (SGN). He soon received his teaching license for universities (Habilitation) and started teaching at the Geological-Paleontological Institute of the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe-University (today “Goethe-University”) in 1925. Due to intensified connections to Senckenberg, he was appointed as honorary head of the palaeobotanic collections in 1938.
Soon after (1941), Kräusel became the head of the newly instituted Palaeobotanic Division, followed along with the return of the herbarium from the university to Senckenberg in 1946. He led the division on an honorary base for the rest of his lifetime. For infrastructural reasons the Palaeobotanic Section was transferred to the Department for Paleontology and Historical Geology in 2005.
Kräusel’s numerous scientific publications and the material he collected and acquired cover most of the earth’s history from the Precambrian to the Quarternary. He worked on Precambrian stromatolites and plant remains from Pleistocene interglacials, but his interest focused especially on fossil floras from the Devonian, the Triassic, the Tertiary, and the area of former Gondwana. He recognized the importance of cuticular analysis and micro-paleobotany/(paleo)palynology relatively early and promoted these fields actively.