in memoriam - Alain Ruellan (1931-2012)

President IUSS 1994 - 1998 Alain Ruellan

IUSS Honorary member 2002

Pr. Alain Ruellan was born on 7thAugust 1931 in Bourg La Reine (Hauts-de-Seine, France) and passed away on 14th June 2012 in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes, France), at the age of 80.

Agronomist, he graduated in 1954 from the National School of Agriculture from Rennes (Brittany, France) and produced in 1957 his first pedological studies on soils with calcareous accumulations in Morocco, for the “Office de la recherche scientifique et technique outre-mer” (ORSTOM). After ten years in Morocco, he moved to Dakar (Senegal) where he worked as research officer on tropical and Mediterranean soils. He was awarded in 1970 a Doctorate in Natural Sciences from the University of Strasbourg (France) for his thesis entitled: Contribution to the knowledge of the soils from the Mediterranean regions: soils with differentiated calcareous profiles from the plains of lower Moulouya (Morocco).

In 1972, he was appointed Professor at the National School of Agriculture in Rennes where he developed soil science teaching with strong emphasis on soil morphology and field work. He founded the INRA Soil Science Laboratory from Rennes by recruiting a multidisciplinary team (soil science, geochemistry, hydrology, agronomy). A multidisciplinary approach of the soil was indeed the mark of his teaching and research themes. During this period, he returned to Brazil (thirty years after leaving his father’s country of adoption), taught there soil morphology and invested in popular education for farmers.

In 1982, he was appointed General Director of ORSTOM (now Research Institute for Development, IRD) he will lead until 1987. His tenure completely transformed this institution employing 2600 persons (800 researchers), first by changing its status into a public research institute and by creating multidisciplinary departments, while ORSTOM was previously organized into disciplines. Through ORSTOM-IRD, Alain Ruellan fully developed his philosophy for research in favor of countries of the South: in his view, research should help these countries to gain their independence (food, health, energy) from the countries of the North. He has thus driven crucial reforms that have reinvigorated IRD and today still guide its activity.

He was offered from 1989 to 1996 the direction of the National Centre of Agronomic Studies in Warm Regions (CNEARC) based in Montpellier. At the same time, from 1990 to 1994, Alain Ruellan was also acting as director of environmental research at CNRS and implemented a program of interdisciplinary research in biological sciences and social sciences. During all this period with heavy responsibilities, he never reduced his investment in favor of education in Soil Science: from 1989, he progressively developed a complete set of educational tools (books, films, exhibitions, CD, DVD, flyers ...) devoted to soil education. And his interest for Brazil became scientifically and politically even stronger as from 1988 he was fascinated by the Amazonia and he contributed in particular to a program of sustainable development intended for the Amapá state.

In addition to this managerial and research leading work, Alain Ruellan served from 1986 to 1992 as vice-president and then President of the French Association of Soil Science (AFES), and from 1994 to 1998 as President of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS). In this function, he was extremely active since he organized in Montpellier (France) the 16th World Congress of Soil Science (on the theme of the relationship between soil and human societies, between the soil and the social systems), Congress which remains engraved in all memories of soil scientists; he transformed also the ISSS into the present International Union of soil Science (IUSS) with a widely multidisciplinary organization. From 2002, he became honorary member of the IUSS.

In recent years, Alain Ruellan continued to work extensively for soil science, with, among others, a booklet coedited with R. Poss and distributed at more than 10 000 copies to teachers of secondary education in France and the publication in 2010 (IRD Editions) of a last book on « soils and men: a threatened link». For Alain Ruellan, soil and men were intimately related.

Its humanitarian action, outside the scientific context, was also significant through its very active involvement in several associations devoted to international solidarity and sustainable development, such as the Centre for Research and Information for Development (CRID), or the Centre for Development and International Solidarity (CRIDEV), which he founded. He was also president from 1983 to 1988 of the CIMADE which is a large ecumenical network aimed to welcome, guide and protect asylum seekers and refugees.

Shortly before his death, he had made a last visit to his Brazilian friends, in this country, Brazil, who was like a second homeland for him.

Alain Ruellan has, throughout his career, contributed to a very large number of publications concerning the soil, the support to developing countries, and political action for research.

The French and international scientific community are really losing an exceptional man.

C. Walter for AFES (The French Association for Soil Science

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Page created: 17.05.2022 | Page updated: 17.05.2022

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