in memoriam - Hans van Baren (1936-2009)

Deputy Secretary General IUSS 1990 – 2002

Book Review Editor ISSS/IUSS 1970 – 2008

IUSS Honorary Member 2006

Drs J.H.V. (Hans) van Baren passed away on 27th January 2009. Hans van Baren has been a long-term officer and first class leader in the ISSS and IUSS, has made major contributions to the Soil Map of the World and has been instrumental in the establishment and development of the World Soil Museum (ISRIC) in Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hans was born in The Hague, but his formative years were spent in Utrecht. Hans studied geology at the University of Utrecht and followed courses in Wageningen under the guidance of Professor C.H. Edelman. After his graduation, he took the initiative to establish contact with UNESCO, which at that time had a system whereby young scientists were recruited to work in UNESCO projects around the world. With the support of his uncle, Professor F.A. van Baren, Hans went to Paris where he was offered employment. Based in Rome he assisted with the major task to compile the FAO-Unesco Soil Map of the World. This was a key challenge and its completion in the mid 1970s is by many regarded as an important milestone in soil science.

Hans van Baren

Hans with his uncle Prof. F.A. van Baren and aunt in Utrecht, late 1960s

After three years working in the FAO-UNESCO Soil Resources Office, Hans went for FAO to East Pakistan (Bangladesh) where he conducted soil surveys. This posting lasted for two years after which he was sent to Kenya to assist with the development of the national soil survey institute. With his Dutch colleagues, the first soil reconnaissance of the whole country was made followed by detailed mapping of areas of high agricultural potential.

With the experience gained in Rome, Bangladesh and Kenya, Hans was offered a post in the International Soil Museum (ISM, now ISRIC – World Soil Information), which at that time had only recently been set up by the ISSS. Together with his colleagues, he set about collecting and preparing soil monoliths of different soils according to the classification of the FAO-UNESCO Soil Map of the World. These monoliths were the foundation of the ISRIC collection of today. He was acting director of the ISM from 1975 to 1978 and deputy director from 1978 to his retirement of ISRIC in 1997.

Hans van Baren

Hans teaching about the FAO-Unesco legend in 1984

The transfer of the International Soil Museum from Utrecht to Wageningen took place in 1978. A sectional building, specially designed for ISM, was constructed containing a lecture room, an exhibition hall (World Soil Museum), offices for staff and laboratories for soil monolith preparation and soil analysis. Under the guidance of Hans the Museum expanded and fulfilled an important role in the exhibition of soils of the world, and the world of the soils. He was much involved in the collection and classification of the soil monoliths.

He started the book review section of the ISSS Bulletin in the early 1970s. Each year the number of reviews grew and in the 1990s Hans reviewed 100 to 150 books annually for the Bulletin. Many readers of the Bulletins have indicated that they found the book review section the most useful and informative part of the Bulletin. In 1990, he was elected Deputy Secretary General of the ISSS and became heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the society including its transformation to a union (IUSS). He has been supportive for national soil science societies, particularly in developing countries and maintained a wide global network of soil scientists. In 2002, he officially retired from his Deputy Secretary General post of the IUSS but he continued to review books for the IUSS Bulletin until 2008. He was made IUSS honorary member in 2006.

Hans van Baren

Hans at his ISRIC desk in 2000, reviewing books, servicing IUSS members across the globe

Hans was also active in museums and social projects in Wageningen and was knighted (Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau) for all his activities in November 2008. By that time a brain tumour had already been found and he was to start chemo- and radiation therapy. Two months after his knighthood, he passed away. Hans was a modest man, with great humour, insight, work ethics, networking abilities and interests in the world around him. He was a friend of the soil, but most of all a caring and dedicated friend for those who knew him. A friend forever has died.

Hans van Baren

Hans and the mayor of Wageningen on 20th November 2008, knighted Ridder in de Orde van Oranje


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Page created: 13.02.2015 | Page updated: 15.02.2015

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