2010 Honorary membership award recipients
Hans de Bruijn
I am a latecomer in my family, born in 1931 after my parents, brothers and sister moved from Amsterdam into the countryside. The years of the German occupation have had a lasting impact on me, because I grew up in a small circle of trusted people of all ages and had much more freedom to move around than my older brothers. Life these days was centered on gathering food, so I grew up as a modern hunter-gatherer. Through my teacher, the owner of a local pub, butcher and semi professional hunter, I gained the expertise that was to become the basis of my later life as a fossil hunter.
After our liberation by the Canadians, who taught me to drive a three-ton truck as well as to speak English, school became serious for the first time. There we had an inspiring biology teacher. Many of his pupils, among others Paul Sondaar and Remmert Daams, have chosen careers in biology-related subjects. After finishing school and fulfilling my army duty, I entered Utrecht University at the age of twenty-three, graduating seven years later after I had the good fortune to meet my wife Jes. As the assistant of Professor G.H.R. von Koenigswald, I had participated in field work in Spain as a student. There I met Miguel Crusafont-Païro, who provided the permission to work on a thesis in Spain. My later vocation, the study of fossil rodents, came after I happened to find a few small mammal teeth in a sample taken for pollen.This discovery led to a thesis "Miocene Gliridae, Sciuridae and Eomyidae from Calatayud (Spain) and their bearing on the biostratigraphy of the area," which I defended in 1965.
My interest in fossil squirrels brought me into contact with Craig Black, who invited me to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for half a year within the Mellon Specialists Exchange Program. After returning to the Netherlands I resumed my job at the staff of the faculty of Earth Sciences in Utrecht, which, at that time, had an annual budget allowing us to continue research in Spain and elsewhere in the Mediterranean area. Meanwhile I had the good fortune to be invited to participate in a number of projects. Among these were collecting trips to Sardinia and Malta (Smithsonian Museum), the Canadian Arctic (Carnegie Museum, Milwaukee Public Museum), Pakistan (Howard University, GSP), Abu Dhabi (Natural History Museum of London), Lybia (University of Benghazi, Universidad Complutense, Madrid), northern Greece (EEDEN program, ESF) and former Yougoslavia (Natural History Museum of Vienna). The ongoing informal collaboration with the MTA, Ankara, Turkey, the Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, the National Museum of Natural History, Beograd, Serbia and the Museum of Natural History of Vienna is gratefully acknowledged. I feel privileged for receiving hospitality and friendship of many colleagues and in many countries during more than fifty years and thank the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Utrecht for providing the facilities to continue research after my early retirement in 1993. I am deeply touched by my nomination as a honorary member of the SVP, a society I have recently been unfaithful to. Thank you!
Photo courtesy of Hans de Bruijn.