The International Geographical Union regrets to announce the death of one of its most prominent colleagues, Professor Christian Wichmann Matthiessen, who passed away on Thursday 8 March 2018. Professor Matthiessen was Danish delegate to the International Geographical Union (1998-2012), and member of the steering committee – and subsequently Chair – of the IGU Commission on Urban Geography (2000-2012).
Christian Wichmann Matthiessen was born in Fredericia in 1945, where he spent his childhood. He matriculated from Fredericia Gymnasium in 1964, and after two years of military service, he started his studies of Geography at University of Copenhagen, where in 1972, he graduated as an Msc in Geography, with a dissertation on the distribution patterns for the population and housing structures of Copenhagen. In 1974, Christian Wichmann Matthiessen was appointed assistant professor at the Department of Geography, University of Copenhagen. He remained at the Department until his retirement in 2011, as an associate professor from 1976, and subsequently as a professor from 1988. He was proud of being employed in the Department as he attached great importance to being associated with the only Danish academic geographical environment with roots far back in Denmark’s university history.
Christian Wichmann Matthiessen’s interest was in the field of human geography and especially in the field of urban geography. His research focused on urban and regional geographical issues and on themes relating to infrastructure, regional development, and the change of the urban system. He was interested in the Triple Helix model (binding regional interaction between the research community, businesses and public management), in cluster analysis, in cultural institutions and value creation, and in the impact of infrastructure on urban and regional growth. His research resulted in a doctoral dissertation in 1985, entitled “The growth of Danish cities”, where a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the composition and development of the Danish urban system was presented for the first time.
His great interest was urban competiveness, especially the potential of Copenhagen in a globalised world that changed after the fall of the Berlin wall and later after the construction of the Øresund Bridge, linking the Øresund region. Finally, he was also interested in the development of the Copenhagen metro and its localisation, and his research resulted in a number of important books, articles and reports on the Øresund region and the Fehmarn Belt region as well as on regional development, urban competitiveness and the global urban system. Internationally, he was the Danish representative and research director of the research project “Cost of urban growth”, and he participated in a large number of international projects.
Christian Wichmann Matthiessen was a member of a large number of professional groups and associations, often in a management function. For example: Member of the Danish National Committee for Geography from 1986-2013, Secretary General from 1992-1998 and President 1998-2012. Member of the council of The Royal Danish Geographical Society for 24 years, of the executive committee for 18 years, vice president from 2007-2013. Member of the executive committee of the European Institute of Comparative Urban Research, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam from 1993-2012. Member of the executive committee of Management of the European Metropolitan Region between 1995-2012. Member of the executive committee of the Commission on Urban Geography of the International Geographical Union for a number of years and its president from 2008-2012. Member of the board of representatives of Wonderful Copenhagen and of its executive committee from 2003-2009. Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Oresund Institute 2002-2013. In addition, Christian Wichmann Matthiessen was Head of Department at Department of Geography University of Copenhagen for two periods, 1986-1990 and 1996-1999 when he headed the development of the department into a modern university department with close ties to Danish society.
Finally, Christian Wichmann Matthiessen was awarded a number of orders and prizes in appreciation of his service. He became a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog in 1998 as well as Knight 1st Class of the order of the Dannebrog in 2010. He was awarded C.N.M. Christiansen’s Grant in 1991 as a token of appreciation for his research into a possible stronger position for the Copenhagen area on the European scene. He received the Brobyggerprisen in 1994 and Helsinki University Medal in 1999.
Christian Wichmann Matthiessen will be remembered as a strong advocate of the role of geography research in development of society in Denmark. Through his research and his instruction of hundreds of geography students, he has played an important role in the development of urban geography in Denmark and internationally.
On behalf of the staff at Geography, University of Copenhagen.
Professor Morten Pejrup, Associate Dean
Professor Ole Mertz, Section Head
Professor Henrik Breuning-Madsen, Vice President of The Royal Danish Geographical Society