In memoriam - Joseph Alfred Zinck (1938-2021)

Joseph Alfred Zinck (©Zinck family)It is with great sadness that we inform you that last Saturday, June 19, Dr. Joseph Alfred Zinck passed away in the Netherlands. He was born on 10th February 1938 in Bilwisheim, France. Prof. (em.) Dr. Joseph Alfred Zinck was a soil scientist with a BSc in geography (1960) and a MSc in phytosociology-pedology (1962) from the University of Strasbourg (France) and a Ph. D in regional planning (1981) from the University of Bordeaux (France). In 1963-64, he was at the University of Bahia (Brazil) with a fellowship from the International Rotary Foundation. Between 1982 and 1985, he was on a post-doctoral program in soil science at the University of California (Berkeley and Davis).

He started and developed his professional career in Venezuela as an expert in technical cooperation of the French Government, working with the Ministry of Public Works (1965-77) and with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (1977-81) in soil survey and land use planning projects. During the same periods, he was also involved in part-time teaching at post-graduate level at the Central University of Venezuela (Caracas and Maracay). From 1986 until his retirement in 2003, he worked at the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) in Enschede (the Netherlands) as full professor in Soil Survey and head of the Soil Science Division. He carried out consulting and research work in several countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and Venezuela. Thematic fields covered include: (1) soil formation, classification, mapping and interpretation for multi-purpose uses, (2) soil-geomorphology relationships, (3) soil information systems, (4) soil degradation, (5) land use planning and sustainable land management in tropical and subtropical areas, and (6) ethnopedology. He has published 166 papers in scientific and large-public journals, 20 soil survey reports, and nine books (four being co-authored).

He was teacher of countless researchers from all over the world. With a serene temperament, was a brilliant scientist, demanding with his disciples, a human and sensitive teacher. Extremely affectionate, with his words and his gestures, measured but deep and sincere. Man of great sensitivity and fine humor. Not only did he speak several languages, but he enjoyed the subtleties of the words. “Los Llanos, un paisaje abierto a pérdida de vista, donde tierra y cielo se funden en un lejano horizonte, dando la sensación de una libertad total mezclada con algo de soledad. Libertad y soledad inspiradas por la posibilidad de caminar leguas y leguas sin cruzar un alma”.

These words are the beginning of a preface he has written for a Venezuelan book “Llanos Venezolanos” which shows how well he combined science with poetry, describing his beloved adopted country. Today, the scientific community loses one of the greats. But his legacy lives on, not only in his numerous publications, but also in each of those who had the opportunity to meet him and be formed by him.

By María Cristina Frugoni, from Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina.

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Page created: 22.12.2021 | Page updated: 22.12.2021

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