Gustav Steinmann (1856-1929) was a typical German professor of the time around the turn of the twentieth century. He was active in all fields of geology, palaeontology and marginally mineralogy with a list of about 200 publications. Unfortunately, only a few documents referring to him exist today. We try to outline some details of his life and his scientific and organisational achievements and discuss some aspects of his somewhat discordant character. The geology (structure, stratigraphy including the Pleistocene) of Chile and Peru was one of his main topics. Extracts from the unpublished fieldbooks of his expeditions (1903/1904 and 1908) are given. Other regional investigations cover the Southern Black Forest, the Swiss folded Jura Mountains and their relationships with the Oberrheingraben, the Alps and Apennines. Another lifelong topic was palaeontology and the theory of evolution. Beside some pioneering scientific discoveries, he published various hypotheses that, however, were purely speculative. By contrast, the discovery of the close association of deep-sea sediments and ophiolites in the Alps and the Apennines (1905, 1927), later named the “Steinmann Trinity”, was to inspire later the theories of seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. He also was the first to prove two phases of glacial activity in the Black Forest. On the other hand, he erroneously believed that Middle Europe was once completely covered with ice and that folding in the Swiss Jura produced empty spaces in the cores of anticlines in analogy to folds in the Andes that were “passively filled by diorites”. His ideas about the evolution of organisms were also extremely speculative if not absurd. He constructed lineages that were based only on morphological appearance thus bringing together, e.g. dinosaurs and giraffes. In 1877, Steinmann finished a dissertation on fossil hydrozoa in Munich, and in 1880, as an assistant at the University of Strasbourg, a habilitation on the Jurassic and Cretaceous stratigraphy of parts of Bolivia. In 1885 he was appointed Professor of Geology and Mineralogy in Jena. By 1886, he moved to a full professorship to the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, starting a period of wide-ranging activities covering a great variety of subjects in seminars, lectures and often strenuous fieldtrips, for he was also an enthusiastic mountaineer. With the authoritarian style of his period, he kept his staff and students enormously busy in all respects. He successfully convinced the regional government to erect a new institute building that is still in use today. Nevertheless, in 1906, he accepted the chair of geology and palaeontology in Bonn, along with the title of “Geheimer Bergrat”. Once again he successfully built a new institute, along the lines of the one in Freiburg. His ceaseless activity also continued in Bonn. In addition, he founded new scientific societies: in 1907 the “Niederrheinische Geologische Verein” and in 1910 the “Geologische Vereinigung” amongst others. However, he suffered from severe restrictions during World War I, the occupation of Bonn and the financial crisis during the 1920s. In 1924, he retired, and in 1925, his wife passed away. Nevertheless, with the help of former students, his “Geology of Peru” was published in 1929 and a summary of his ophiolite research appeared in 1927 in Madrid. Throughout his life, he attempted to participate in all International Geological Congresses with their long fieldtrips and the opportunities for personal contacts. Steinmann was a multi-faceted personality, some of them quite “sharp”. He had diverse interests and ideas combined with a profound knowledge in many fields. He had enormous energy and also expected the same from others. After a long trip to the Far East he died in 1929 in Bonn. His most important organizational achievement was certainly the foundation of the “Geologische Vereinigung” (1910) with its renowned annual meetings and its journal, the “Geologische Rundschau”. As an academic enterprise, it was both complementary and a counter balance to the “Deutsche Geologische Gesellschaft” with its long tradition rooted in the Geological Surveys. Up to his retirement, Steinmann served either as editor or as chairman, posts which remained in Bonn with his successor Hans Cloos. The meetings and the journal were to inform German-speaking geologists about new results and methods in research and teaching, personal news and extensive reviews of relevant literature covering all branches of the science but with emphasis on physical geology. His editorial work and the number of his review articles illustrate how much he felt responsible for the geosciences in general. In scientific discussions, Steinmann used his knowledge and excellent memory to argue with sharp-witted comments that often offended his colleagues. He also caused many controversies in the scientific community because of his partly incredible speculations. These were perhaps reasons why he did not receive any major scientific honours. We give a final illustration of a very different facet of his personality with a touching letter written by his granddaughter who gives a private portrait of him as an admired grandfather.