A Tribute to Great Geomorphologist and Inspirational Geographer, Ex IGU President Professor Verstappen, Herman Th., 1925-2020

I am deeply pained and saddened to know the demise of Ex IGU President Professor Verstappen, Herman Th. I express my deep condolences to his family, friends and well-wishers. I have been meeting him in IGU Congress and Regional Conferences since Paris IGC 1984. As President of the IGU, he inaugurated our IGU Conference on Disasters, Environment and Development at the University of Delhi, India in December 1994. This was our second initiative to organize multi-commissions collaborative IGU seminar together with UN INDR. He has been actively involved in the Natural Hazard Research at the well-known International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences, Enschede, The Netherlands. While writing Foreword of my book-Disaster Environment and Development, he puts it-Scientists and Engineers should cooperate closely with decision makers and the affected populations. Preparedness and awareness raising are importantant means to achieve the aim of the UN INDR. Since geography focuses on the relationships between society and environment, science plays a leading part in disaster-related research.

Herman Th. was born on July 30, 1925 at The Hague, The Netherlands. He is survived by his spouse and his three children. At secondary school (Dalton-HBS) in the Hague Herman Th. Verstappen joined the Netherlands Youth Association of Naturalists (NJN) that made him a real outdoor man keen on walking, swimming, cycling. He later became an enthusiastic mountaineer, climbed in the Alps, two first ascents in the Central Range of West New Guinea (one of which to the eternal snow, 4700m) and all volcanoes in Indonesia above 3000 m. Verstappen, Herman Th. Did his B.Sc and Drs/M.Sc. in Physical geography, University Utrecht, the Netherlands, 1942-1949. Dr.Sc (Phys.Math.) University Utrecht, 1953. His thesis entitled: DJAKARTA BAY, a geomorphological study on shoreline development,under Promotor: Professor Jacoba HOL.

He was staff member, Geographical Institute of the Government Survey Department, Jakarta, Indonesia during 1949-1957. Head geomorphology department, International Institute Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences, 1957-1989. Since 1968 full-professor, of geomorphology at the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), Delft/Enschede, the Netherlands. He was part time lecturer at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta (1953-1957), University of Indonesia, ITB-Bandung (1954-1957). He was involved in Post-graduate teaching, research and consulting abroad 1957-1989. Guest Professor at the International Course for Hydraulic Engineering, Delft (1963-1974) and the International Course for Building and Planning, Rotterdam (1967-1972). Visiting professor, University of Basel, Switzerland, 1984-2000.

His area of research were applied geomorphology and related geomorphological surveying. The use of aerospace technology in geomorphology, Natural hazard research and disaster mitigation, Environmental geomorphology and natural resource assessment focusing on tropical geomorphology and palaeoclimates with regional specialization: Indonesia, South and Southeast Asia made him a leading scientist in this area.

His IGU assignment includes Member Executive Committee International Geographical Union (IGU) Vice-President 1984-1988, First Vice-President 1988-1992; President 1992-1996; Past-President 1996-2000, 1989-1999 Member/as of July 1995 Chairman, ICSU (International Council for Science) Special Committee for the U.N. International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. Expert arid zone program United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Quetta, Pakistan, 1963-1964. Member geological commission Koninklike Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen, 1980. Chairman commission Doctor of Philosophy international education Netherlands U. Foundation International Cooperation. Member Netherlands U. Development Corporation, minister foreign affairs, 1993. Chairman special committee natural disaster reduction ICSU, since 1995. Verstappen, Herman Th. was intensively involved with International Council for Science (ICSU), International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS), Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation (NUFFIC).

Verstappen, Herman Th. published several books titled Djakarta Bay, a geomorphological study on shoreline development (Dr.thesis, 1953), Aerial photographs in geology and geomorphology. ITC textbook VII.2 (1963), A geomorphological reconnaissance of Sumatra and adjacent islands (Wolters, 1964), The use of aerial photographs in geomorphologic mapping ITC textbook VII.5 (1973), Remote sensing in geomorphology (Elsevier, 1977) Applied geomorphology (Elsevier, 1983), Outline of the geomorphology of Indonesia (ITC Publ.79, 2000), Zwerftocht Door Een Wereld in Beweging (V.Gorcum, 2006). He published more than 200 publications in scientific journals and was editor of Journal Die Erde, Earth Science Reviews, ITC Journal, Geografiske Annaler, Géographies, Geoforum. GeoJournal, Journal of Coastal Research, Photogrammetria, Revista Española de Geografía, Revista Mexicana de Geografía (UNAM), Revue de Géologie dynamique et de Géographie physique/Geodynamica Acta, Revue de Géomorphologie dynamique.

As IGU President Professor Verstappen, Herman Th. major efforts/accomplishments were his involvement in international/global research programmes. The renaissance of geographical thinking: improving the links between physical and human geography, affiliation of the International Association of Geomorphologists (IAG), the International Permafrost Association (IPA) and the International Union for Speleology (UIS) with the IGU. Improving contacts with International Cartographic Association. Establishing contacts with regional geographical organizations in various parts of the world. Stimulating IGU membership of new “countries in transition” in central and eastern Europe and in and other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He revitalized the IGU in various ways.

Verstappen, Herman Th received Honorary/Corresponding Memberships/Fellowships of Italian Geographical Society, Polish Geographical Society, Mexican. Geographical Society, Royal Geographical Society, Deccan Geographical Society, Indian Society for Environment and Culture, Cuban Society for the Environment, International Association of Geomohologists (2005) and Lauréat d’honneur International Geographical Union (2008). Apart from this Professor received Knight in the Order of the Netherland’s Lion (Decree of H.M. Queen Juliana, 1989) Medal, University of Padua, Alexander Csoma de Kóros Medal, Hungarian Geographical Society. Medal, Cuban Academy of Sciences, Scottish Geographical Medal, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Plancius Medal, Royal Dutch Geographical Society, Valentijn Medal, Treub Foundation for Scientific Research in the Tropics, Member, Academia Europaea (1992 – present).

On the behalf of the world Geography Community, I pay my humble tribute to Prof. Verstappen and thank God for blessing IGU fraternity with such a creative soul, a great and valuable geomorphologist and Natural Hazard Researcher. I pray to God that his soul be Rest in Peace.

Secretary General and Treasurer
International Geographical Union