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Record: oai:ARNO:526035

AuthorsPieter Baas, Rino Zandee
TitleRobert Geesink (1945—1992)
JournalBlumea - Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants
AbstractOn 2 September 1992 Rob Geesink died a week before he would have reached the age of 47. He had been associated with the Rijksherbarium from his student days in the sixties onwards. For his MSc programme he successfully revised the Portulacaceae for Flora Malesiana and carried out an experimental-ecological study of the genus Bangia (red algae). In 1971 he received his congratulatory (‘cum laude’) MSc degree. From 1972 to 1974 he was executive taxonomist in the Thai-Dutch cooperative project for the Flora of Thailand, a post during which he made four botanical explorations. In 1976 he was finally appointed on the staff of the Rijksherbarium, from 1987 to early 1990 as Project Leader of the research group for Tropical Phanerogams.
Rob’s talents and interests covered a unique and broad range; from handy-man to theorist, and from efficiency improvement in the daily routine of plant collecting and taxonomy to the application of information theory in evolution. As a student he impressed his supervisors Van Steenis and Den Hartog, when he developed a device to shake and aerate algal cultures with the aid of spare motorcycle parts. Later ‘inventions’ included the use of a bottle cap in combination with an electric cigarette lighter to boil and rehydrate delicate herbarium fragments, a noise-reducing exhaust for engines, and a do-it-yourself altimeter for trees. His eye for the practical is also apparent from the enthusiasm with which he took the initiative to produce, together with other colleagues, a fully revised version of Thonner’s ‘Key to the Families of Flowering Plants’, from the production of a punched card key to the genera of SE Asian Leguminosae, and from his analysis of practical changes needed to ever complete Flora Malesiana. During his PhD study, initially aimed at a revision of the genus Millettia, but later modified to a generic treatment of the tribe Millettieae (‘Scala Millettiearum’, published in 1984), Rob had felt a strong need for a more thorough knowledge of theoretical aspects of systematics, especially of phylogenetics. Insights developed during broad and intensive background reading were shared with students and colleagues through introductory manuals and in regular reading and discussion circles which Rob initiated both in Leiden and Wageningen, and which are continued after his death with a nation-wide attendance. In the last years Rob was especially interested in the newly developed theory of evolution as an entropic process as well as in the philosophy of systematic science. He must be given credit for introducing modern cladistics and historical biogeography to the Rijksherbarium.
Document typearticle
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