in memoriam - Luis A. Leon Sarmiento (1927-2009)
Luis A. Leon, who died on June 27/2009 at the age of 82, was one the most outstanding Latin American soil scientists over a period of four decades. He was born in Bogota , Colombia , on September 12, 1927. He obtained a B.Sc. degree in Chemical Engineering from the National University of Colombia and on leaving the university he joined the laboratory of the Soils Program of the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA), based at the Palmira Experimental Station. In 1963 he obtained a Ph.D. in Soil Chemistry from the University of California Riverside and back to Colombia was designed National Director of the ICA’s Soils Research Program.
In 1978 he joined the staff of the International Fertilizer Development Center to develop research on phosphorus and phosphate rocks of Latin America in the International Center of Tropical Agriculture in Palmira , Colombia . He spent several years with this international organization and play a pivotal role in the phosphate rocks scientific development. He also worked as a consultant for the Texas Gulf , Raleigh N.C. in natural phosphates use; for CYMMIT, in CIAT-Palmira, working in the different scientific soil projects for South America of this international center for 2 years; also for Cenipalma, the Colombian research center for the oil palm and finally He was to spend the rest of his professional career working with the newest University of the Pacific on the Colombian Pacific Coast where he developed scientific love for soil sustainability in the students of this marginated and poor region of Colombia.
He carried on research on soil chemistry and soil fertility and also teaching at the National University of Colombia. Through his long and intense engagement in both research and teaching Dr. Leon has had an enormous impact on development in the science of soils chemistry and fertility. He is author of more than 200 research papers, numerous chapters in handbooks and meeting/congresses memories.
As a counselor of graduate students many of them were guided towards an advanced degree in Soil Chemistry and Soil Fertility and many others became well known researchers and university professors themselves.
He was cofounder and a long-standing member of the Colombian Soil Science Society. He was its president from 1971 to 1975 and from 1979 to 1981. Also was president of the Latin American Soil Science Society from 1973 to 1975.
Dr. Leon has received numerous honors and awards. Among other things, was an Honorary Member of the Colombian, Peruvian and of the International Soil Science Societies. He will be remembered by colleagues and friends for his important contributions to the development of soil science.