Soil Classification Congress
Lincoln Nebraska, USA
Distinguished delegates, Mr. President of the IUSS, Mr. Chairman of the IUSS Division of Soil in Space and Time, it is a real honor for me to provide this laudation
for Dr. Hari Eswaran at the occasion of the handing over of the second Guy Smith medal for soil classification.
I’m happy to point out at this junction that we have a special guest of Honor with us, Mrs Amy Smith, the granddaughter of Guy Smith who brings some good memories of her grandfather.
Let me start by providing some background on Hari’s Eswaran’s personal history and professional career. He was born on January 28, 1941 in Kluang, Johore, Malaysia.
He obtained his M.Sc in Soil Survey in 1967 at the University of Ghent, Belgium where he also graduated with a PhD in 1970 under the guidance of the renown Prof. Dr. R. Tavernier,
a personal friend of Guy Smith. Hari stayed on in Belgium at the International Training Centre (ICT-Ghent) as lecturer and scientific collaborator till 1976.
In the early eighties Hari Eswaran went to Honolulu at the University of Hawai for leading an USAID project on Soil Management Support Services (SMSS). The idea of the SMMS
project was to provide assistance to developing countries to come to grips with Soil Taxonomy for mapping and classifying soils. Within this programme Hari reached many young
soil scientists from all over the world during the field training sessions. Some 90 countries benefitted from this project. 12 international committees INCOMOX, INCOMANTH, etc.,
were established bringing some 1200 soils scientists under one roof, reflecting on soil genesis and classification. The project received honors and awards from different countries
(Van Ranst, 2011).
In 1986 Hari was elected Vice-Chairman of Commission V of the ISSS and in that capacity he shaped the Benchmark Soils Project.
As of 1989 till 2009 Hari was the National Leader of the World Soil Resources Centre of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He developed a program and coordinated activities
of international technical exchange and assistance in areas of soil resource assessment, monitoring and management (Van Ranst, 2011). The result of this work culminated in the production
of the 1:30 million map of the ‘Soil Regions of the World’. He also developed a global soil database which has been used world-wide for assessing soil qualities and impact of land degradation.
Last but not least he was one of the fore-runners in designing ‘Sustainable agriculture’ by soil type and spearheaded studies on ‘Global change and desertification’.
Hari has published numerous scientific journal papers, served as reviewer of some 7 SCI journals. Among the many symposia Hari organized, the one of 2003 at Charlotte-USA during
the Annual meeting of the American Soil Science Society meeting was particularly important in view of its contribution to international soil correlation. It was published as a book:
‘Soil Classification, A global Desk Reference’ by the CRC Press.
Let me now further elaborate upon Hari’s major contributions to soil classification.
Prof. Van Ranst (2011) wrote:
Dr. Eswaran’s greatest contribution has been the improvement, understanding, and use of ‘Soil Taxonomy’ globally. He led the creation of several
international committees (e.g. ICOMOX, ICOMID, ICOMAND,…), open-ended groups that brought the world’s leading soil experts together to improve aspects of Soil Taxonomy.
Under his leadership, these committees provided recommendations that led to a series of universally accepted updates, including the establishment of two new orders, the Andisols and
Gelisols, and the publication of periodic issues of ‘Keys to Soil Taxonomy’.
As ex-chairman of the IUSS World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) working Group I have witnessed Hari’s true love for soils. He joined us wherever WRB would take him,
China, Vietnam, Italy, Germany etc… In the profile pit he is a master to open the pit like a book, meticulously unfolding its pages and explaining its true content to all young
scientists clustering around him. Thanks to Hari the WRB working group developed a rationale for the WRB system, and in doing so we realised that a simple system of two categorical
levels with great flexibility of the qualifiers would make an easy, useful and true classification system ready for international soil correlation and mapping. He also favoured
congruence between Soil Taxonomy and WRB so as to improve the scope for international soil correlation.
Upon the launching of the call for the second Guy Smith Prize, the selection committee received numerous nominations. After a thorough scrutiny of the submissions by the Guy Smith
Committee, Dr. Hary Eswaran came out as the strongest candidate. Incidentally, Hary Eswaran is stepping in the shoes of the great Rudi Dudal who was awarded the previous Guy Smith Prize.
Incidentally, Hari supported Rudi Dudal in bridging different soil classification systems in the implementation of the Soil Map of the World.
May I now request Prof. Karl Star Chair of IUSS Division of Soil in Space and Time, to hand over the Guy Smith prize to Hari Eswaranl.
Jozef (Seppe) Deckers Secretary-General, Soil Science Society of Belgium Chair, IUSS Guy Smith Prize Selection Comittee KU Leuven University Belgium Prof. Lúcia Helena C. Anjos Soils Department, Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRRJ) Seropédica, Rio de Janeiro Prof. Maria Gerasimova Department of Soil Geography and Landscape Geochemistry Faculty of Geography Moscow Lomonosov State University Moscow, Russia
Acknowledgement: for this laudation I gratefully used factual information on Hari Eswaran drawn from the article in PEDON No 22, January 2011 (Newsletter of ICT-Ghent, Belgium)
with kind permission of its author Prof. Dr. Eric Van Ranst
By Prof. Jozef (Seppe) Deckers, Chair of the Selection Committee of the IUSS Guy Smith Award
Emeritus Professor Carolus (Karel) SYS (1923 – 2009)
Secretary General of the Belgian Soil Science Society (1968-1981)
Dr. ir. Carolus, emeritus professor of Soil Science in the Faculty of Sciences, Ghent University, passed away on October 1, 2009 at the age of 85.
He was born in Zande (West-Flanders, Belgium) on Christmas-day, December 25, 1923.
Being son of a farmer, his parents certainly not directed him towards university studies. Instead they depicted for him a career as a cattle tradesman.
However, when during World War II, young men were summoned to work for the war industries, he decided not to go that way but to enroll at the Agricultural University in Ghent,
where he obtained the degree of agricultural engineer, tropical soil science, in 1949.
In the same year ir. C. Sys was selected by the Belgian administration for a job in the former Belgian Congo. He began working as a field soil surveyer at INEAC
(Institut National pour l’Etude Agronomique au Congo Belge), pioneering the soils of the central part of Africa. He participated in regional soil surveys in different
parts of the former Belgian Congo and in Burundi.
In 1956, he was appointed as Chef du Groupe Cartographie et Prospection de la Division d’Agrologie of this institute, in charge of the supervision and co-ordination
of the soil survey. In this function, he together with his collaborators, elaborated the INEAC system of soil classification for Central Africa.
Under the leadership of Sys, much emphasis was laid by the Belgian soil scientists on characteristics easily recognizable in the field, such as the presence of pseudosands
in the poor Ferralsols and the presence of shiny clay skins in the much richer Ferrisols. Many of these criteria were later taken over in the international classification
systems, such as Soil Taxonomy or the FAO legend. At that time, Sys was also a member of the committee in charge of the establishment of a Soil Map of Africa, and he
compiled the first soil map of Congo and Ruanda-Urundi at scale 1:5M.
In 1960, Sys returned back to Belgium and worked for three years, until 1963, as chief cartographer at the Belgian Centre for Soil Survey and as researcher in the
Laboratory of Physical Geography and Regional Pedology under the direction of Professor René Tavernier. At the same time, he supervised soil survey work and was
in charge of the study of the soil suitability for crop growing in Belgium. Ir. Sys was awarded a Ph.D. in Agronomy in 1961 at the Agricultural University of Ghent on the
thesis ‘Soil Genesis in the High-Katanga’.
In 1963, Dr. ir. C. Sys, was appointed associate professor, and in 1981 full professor at the State University Ghent, teaching regional pedology (mainly of tropical
and subtropical regions) and land evaluation at the Faculty of Sciences (International Training Centre for Post-Graduate Soil Scientists, ITC-Ghent) and at the Faculty of
Agricultural Sciences. In this function he was responsible for the scientific education of numerous pedologists from developing countries as well as from developed countries
all over the world. Initially his research was oriented to the study of soil-forming processes of tropical and arid soils, but since the 1970s his interest shifted mainly to
land evaluation. His green books on ‘Land Evaluation’ published by the former General Administration for Development Cooperation in Brussels are well-known and are still
used and cited by scientists. Around that time, Professor Sys’s career took an international course and his reputation as a leading and influential soil scientist grew
through this period. Since 1963, he was consultant or scientific supervisor of many overseas projects for the Belgian Administration for Development Co-operation,
the Flemish Interuniversity Council, the FAO and for many other Belgian and international organizations and consultant bureaus.
In Africa, he realized soil survey and land evaluation projects in Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Chad, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Democratic
Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia.
In Nicaragua, he planned and supervised the soil survey of the Costa Atlàntica between the Rio Grande de Matagalpa and the Rio Escondido. In Asia he participated in soil
research and soil survey work in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.
From 1968 until 1981 Professor Sys was Secretary General of the Belgian Soil Science Society and editor-in-chief of ‘Pedologie’, the journal of the Belgian Soil Science
Society. His wide-spread expertise in the field of land evaluation was acknowledged in 1978 during the World Congress in Edmonton, Canada by his election as chairman of
the Commission ‘Soil Technology’ of the International Society of Soil Science (ISSS). He chaired this commission until 1982.
In 1984, he succeeded Professor Tavernier as director of the ITC-Ghent and in 1987 he was elected president of the Belgian Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences.
Throughout his career his main solicitude has always been to carry out scientific research leading to practical applications. Hereby he was particularly concerned
about the possibilities to apply his findings in the sometimes precarious working conditions of the third world.
Therefore his advices on soil management were always very much appreciated by all the people working in the agricultural sector in developing countries.
His working capacity is illustrated by numerous scientific articles and technical reports, the many M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses prepared under his supervision or with his
collaboration, his activities in the Belgian and International Soil Science Societies and his position as director of the ITC-Ghent. Despite retirement in 1989, Sys
remained interested in the International Training Centre and in the work of the Laboratory of Soil Science, especially in their activities in Central Africa.
Eric Van Ranst – Gent, October 2009