Born 1953 in Fürstenfeld, Helmut W. Flügel got interested in geology already in the last year of the high-school by joining field excursions with Franz Heritsch, at that time professor of Geology and Palaeontology at the University Graz, and he started the study of Geology during winter semester 1942/43. After obligatory military service, injury and prisoner of war between February 1943 and April 1946, he continued his studies in summer semester 1946 and finished these with doctoral thesis and rigorosum during December 1948. First, Helmut W. Flügel was active as demonstrator and assistant at the Technische Hochschule (now Technical University) in Graz working on tectonics and applied geological topics, and then, since October 1953, as assistant at the University of Graz, where he made a steep career: habilitation in Geology 1953, habilitation in Palaeontology 1955, associate professor of Palaeontology and Historical Geology 1963, and finally full professor of Palaeontology and Historical Geology since October 1967. Since October 1994, he was in the emeritus status.
In research, Helmut W. Flügel covered a wide range of topics in fundamental and applied geology and palaeontology and published ca. 380 papers. One of his principal research themes was the taxonomy and palaeogeographic distribution of Palaeozoic corals, in part on material collected by himself in Turkey and Iran. However, he also published influential tectonical and geochronological papers on the eastern part of Eastern Alps and he was always open for application of novel analytical techniques as well as for new ideas and concepts for a wide range of geological processes. For example, he invented, together with his coworkers, carbonate facies studies in mainly Jurassic rocks of Northern Calcareous Alps and used chemical methods in that investigations. Later, with the creation of the IGCP programme of UNESCO, he was one of the first to establish the long-lasting project IGCP project no. 5, Correlation of pre-Variscan and Variscan events in the Alpine-Mediterranean Mountain Belt. This project had a huge impact bringing together researcher from many countries of both sides of the Iron Curtain and some of these collaborations are still in existence. Helmut W. Flügel brought also the Austrian geosciences together working in two interdisciplinary projects (e.g. “Geologischer Tiefbau der Ostalpen” – Deep structure of the Eastern Alps) covering most fields of geosciences. A number of analytical facilities like geochronology in Vienna and the palaeomagnetic laboratory at Gams have their roots within that project. He also was the driving force to transform the Viennese Geological Society to an Austrian Geological Society. For all these merits in research and service to the geoscience community, he got 1994 the Eduard-Suess medal, the highest award of the Austrian Geological Society. He got national recognition as member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Helmut W. Flügel was an internationally highly respected and recognized researcher and many of his students got influential positions in international academia, industry and administration.
With the decease von Helmut W. Flügel Austrian geosciences lost one of the most pronounced prosperous and diligent personalities rich in ideas, who paved the way for international recognition of Austrian geosciences and helped many of his scholars.