Raoul (Rudi) Dudal (Brugge, May 1, 1926 – Borchtlombeek, January 23, 2014)
On 23rd January 2014 Rudi Dudal passed away at Borchtlombeek, surrounded by his family. Rudi Dudal was born on May 1, 1926 in Brugge, Belgium.
After his M.Sc. as agricultural engineer at KU Leuven University(Belgium) in 1949, Rudi stepped in a PhD programme at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences where he was the first student to graduate in 1955. He was active as head of a mapping team of the Belgian Soil Survey Centre in Leuven. In 1955 he started his international career in FAO as Technical Assistant on Soil Resources Appraisal in Indonesia, where he also served as Professor in Soil Science in the faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Indonesia from 1958 – 1959. From 1960 – 1969 he was the General Correlator of the FAO/Unesco Soil Map of the World. These were times of cold war and as our Russian colleagues from the Dokuchaev Soil Science Society remarked, this was Glasnost ‘avant la-lettre!’. From 1970 – 1975 Rudi was Chief of the Soil Resources Development and Conservation Service of FAO. From 1976 till 1984 he was Director of the Land and Water Development Division in FAO. In 1984 he joined KU Leuven as full professor in Soil Geography, Soils of the Tropics and Land Evaluation at the Faculty of Agricultural and Applied Biological Sciences.
Internationally Rudi Dudal has taken on board numerous scientific assignments, the most important are :
- Chairman of the Commission on Soil Classification and Survey of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS; 1968 – 1974);
- Secretary-General of the International Soil Science Society (ISSS; 1974 – 1978); Chairman, FAO Inter-Departmental Working Group on Environment and Energy (1980 – 1983);
- Secretary of the Working Group on the International Reference Base for Soil Classification (ISSS; 1986 – 1992);
- Secretary of the Working Group on Soils and Geomedicine (ISSS; 1986 – 1994).
Rudi has also been very active in transdisciplinary scientific committees such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) where he served as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) from 1988 – 1993 and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) from 1995 – 2001. He launched the concept of Mega-Environments, kind of an agro-ecological zoning, to encourage scientists to target their research so small local farmers would reap more benefits.
Rudy Dudal (second from the left) in Katanga, Congo on a soil corerelation tour with R. Tavernier
(first left) , J. Croegaert (third from the left) and C. Sys (fourth from the left), photo: courtesy E. Van Ranst
Rudi was awarded numerous honorary degrees:
- the degree of Doctor h.c. of Agricultural Sciences at the Rijksuniversiteit Gent,Belgium in 1976;
- Doctor of Science h.c. at the Cranfield University, U.K. in 1979
- Doctor of Laws h.c. at the University of Aberdeen, U.K in 1981.
Rudi’s high scientific profile was marked by Honorary Awards and memberships:
- Member of the Royal Academy of Overseas Science, (Belgium, 1979)
- Corresponding Member of the Deutsche Bodenkundliche Gesellschaft (Germany, 1980)
- Honorary Award of the Soil Conservation Society of America(U.S.A., 1981)
- Membre d’honneur, Association francaise pour l’Etude du Sol, (France, 1982)
- Honorary Member, American Soil Science Society, (U.S.A., 1985)
- Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters, (Norway, 1989)
Last but not least, Rudi was the first soil scientist to receive the Guy Smith Medal Award 2010 , which was handed over to him by Prof. Karl Star, Chair of IUSS Division of Soil ins Space and Time at the Royal Academy for Science and Arts at Brussels on 22/02/2011.
Rudy was member of the soil science societies of Belgium, Germany, USA, France, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, ISRIC and the IUSS.
Rudi’s contributions to soil classification: By developing the Legend of the FAO/Unesco Soil Map of the World, Rudi made a major contribution towards harmonizing existing national soil classification systems. Thanks to his good personal relations at the time with Guy Smith from USDA, Rudi took the fortunate decision to adopt the concept of diagnostic horizons, properties and materials and implemented it at World scale in the FAO Legend of the Soil Map of the World. This was so successful that afterwards many countries used the Legend of the Soil Map of the World not only for soil mapping but also as a system for soil classification.
When in 1980 FAO and UNEP took the initiative of the International Reference base for Soil Classification (IRB), Rudi was there to steer the initiative and became secretary as of 1986 through to 1992. During the famous meeting of IRB at Montpellier in 1992, Rudi has played a key role in aligning the IRB with the revised legend of the FAO Soil map of the World. As such the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB) was born and could count on the full support from FAO and other organizations of the United Nations. In 1998, during the World Congress of Soil Science at Montpellier, the IUSS adopted WRB as its system for soil correlation and classification. Rudi continued to play an important role by supporting harmonization in soil classification, particularly in the translation of the soil map of Belgium to WRB. With his phenomenal background rooting back to his time as a Belgian soil surveyor and all what followed during his career as prominent soil scientist, we have been very happy and proud to have had Rudi on this team.
Till very recent, Rudi was still keeping in close touch with the scholars in soil science at the Geo-Institute of the KU Leuven, stirring up the scientific debate on major world issues such as carbon cycles and soil evolution under the global change scenario. He loved socializing and discussing the most different themes. While tearing off the label of a water bottle, he would read out its mineral composition and then the latest nitrate regulations for Flanders groundwater would pass the review. Another of your favorite topics was climate change, long before Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was shown in the cinemas. And to our big surprise he not only told us the history of the carillon of Leuven town but even the music played on it every hour!
Through his kindness and enthusiasm he managed to endear so many people all over the world with whom he remained connected long before internet and social media were in place. This vast social capital in combination with his wisdom and vision made him a real leader.
When the sad news of Rudi Dudal’s passing away circulated a tsunami of emotional reactions came flooding in. “Rudi was a giant; we shall remember him fondly as a friend, colleague and polymath, stalwart to the end (David Dent), the scientist with the greatest sense of humour (Freddy Nachtergaele). We shall miss his counsel greatly (David Dent).
Indeed, we are very sad with Rudi’s departure, but we are also very grateful that our paths have crossed Rudi’s and we could travel together his life journey for so long. Dick Arnold from the United States put it like this: ‘Rudi will be missed but more importantly he will be remembered for his ideas and his determination to get soil scientists around the world to work more closely together’.
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