In memoriam - Georges Stoops (1937-2022)
Georges Joseph Stoops was born in 1937 in Antwerp (Belgium). He studied Geology and Mineralogy at Ghent University, where he obtained his PhD degree in 1966. He worked at Lovanium University (DR Congo) from 1962 to 1966, as assistant and lecturer, and in 1968 he was appointed to Ghent University (UG), where he became Full Professor in 1987, and Emeritus Professor in 2002. Georges was Chairman of the Department Geology and Soil Science (1993-2001), Director of the “International Training Centre for Post-Graduate Soil Scientists” (UG), and Vice-president of the Steering Committee of Development Cooperation of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (1999-2002), among other tasks. He developed a very intense coollaborative activities with universities around the world, through common projects and also as guest lecturer.
Georges’ most relevant contributions to soil science were in the field of soil micromorphology. This discipline lacked a coherent, internationally accepted analytical system until 1969, when the ISSS (now IUSS) created a working group to develop common guidelines for the study of soil thin sections. This resulted in the publication of a handbook by Peter Bullock, Amilius Jongerius, Nicolas Fédoroff, Tatiana Tursina and Georges Stoops in 1985, with precisely defined concepts and terms, which was widely used. Georges Stoops prepared a revised version that was published by the Soil Science Society of America in 2003; and even in 2021, when he published a second edition of these guidelines. Besides his work on concepts and terms, translated to many languages, he also published two essential books dealing with interpretation of soil micromorphological features (2010, 2018), becoming the only soil micromorphologist from the initial team who was currently active. His contributions were not only methodological or conceptual, but represented very important advances in the understanding of soil systems under volcanic, tropical, arid (gypsum and carbonates) and temperate environments, as well as in related disciplines as geoarchaeology.
In parallel, his teaching activity was very intense, especially in the soil micromorphology courses of the Master's Degree in Soil Science at Ghent University, as well as in multiple specialization courses and through the supervision of master's and doctoral theses. This resulted in the international dissemination of this discipline, and in the existence, at present, of a whole generation of soil micromorphologists around the world who benefited from his knowledge and wisdom. During 2022, he was planning to attend the micromorphology courses in Tremp and Krakow, which shows his energy and his desire to pass on his knowledge to young researchers.
Thanks to his many contributions, both in teaching and research, he was awarded the Dokuchaev medal of the All Union of Soviet Soil Scientists of the Academy of Science (1985), the Kubiëna Medal of the International Soil Science Society (1992), and the Philippe Duchaufour Medal of the European Geosciences Union (2010). In 2018, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, the Spanish Journal of Soil Science dedicated a special issue to him with selected contributions from the 15th International Conference on Soil Micromorphology (https://sjss.es/index.php/sjss/issue/view/177).
Those of us who were lucky to learn and work with Georges will remember him as a tireless researcher, full of curiousity and enthusiastic about his work, who never avoided a question or a doubt from a student or colleague. His human quality, his approachability and kindness were on a par with his quality as researcher. His legacy will remain forever in his works and teachings; and his friendship and example will not disappear but multiplied in the people who knew and learned from him. Rest in Peace, Georges.
Rosa M Poch
Chair (2010-2018) and Vice-chair (2006-2010) of IUSS Commission 1.1. Soil Morphology and Micromorphology
IUSS Honorary Member
Photo by Sari Stoops, permission to use it provided by Spanish Journal of Soil Science