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Heads of Natural Sciences at UNESCO (1946 to present day)
1946-1948: Head of Natural Sciences Section, July 1948-1964: Director of the Natural Sciences Department and from September 1964 onwards: Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences:

Walter R. ERDELEN, Germany, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, March 2001-
Gisbert GLASER, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences a.i., March 2000-February 2001
Maurizio IACCARINO, Italy, Assistant Director-General for Science, May 1996-March 2000
Adnan BADRAN, Jordan, Assistant Director-General for Science, January 1990-April 1996
Sorin DUMITRESCU, Romania, Assistant Director-General for Science a.i., July 1988-December 1989
Abdul Razzak KADDOURA, Syria, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, April 1976-November 1988
James M. HARRISON, Canada, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, January 1973-March 1976
Adriano BUZZATI-TRAVERSO, Italy, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, September 1969 December 1972
M. Malcolm ADISESHIAH, India, Deputy Director-General, was ADG/SC a.i. between April and September 1969
Alexey MATVEYEV, USSR, Assistant Director-General in charge of Science, September 1964-March 1969
Victor A. KOVDA, USSR, Director, Department of Sciences, January 1959-December 1964
Pierre V. AUGER, France, Director, Natural Sciences Section/Department, April 1948-December 1958
Joseph NEEDHAM, U.K., Head Natural Sciences Section, December 1946-April 1948

Walter R. ERDELEN, Germany

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

March 2001-

Born in Ansbach, Germany in 1951, Walter R. Erdelen obtained a B.Sc. in Zoology, Botany, Genetics, Chemistry in 1973, in 1977 a M.Sc. in Zoology, Botany, Genetics, Chemistry and in 1983 a Ph.D. in Ecology and Zoology from the University of Munich, Germany, followed by habilitation in Biogeography in 1993 from the University of the Saarland, Germany.

Between 1981 and 1988, Walter Erdelen was a Lecturer and Researcher at the Dept. of Zoology, University of Munich, Germany and a Research Associate at the Zoological Museum in Munich, Germany, when he became a Senior Lecturer and Researcher and then Associate Professor at the Institute of Biogeography at Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany. In 1995 he was appointed Professor of Ecology and Biogeography at the Department of Zoology, Institute for Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology and Director of the Ecological Field Station, University of Würzburg, Germany. In 1997 he left Germany for invaluable experience in Asia to become a visiting Professor at the Dept. of Biology, Institute of Technology, Bandung, Indonesia, a post he occupied until his nomination as Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO, in 2001.

Since 1975, Walter Erdelen has been teaching at universities and public schools in Germany and abroad in the fields of environmental sciences, conservation biology, ecology, systematics and evolutionary biology. His teaching has covered basic and applied sciences at pre- and postgraduate levels, benefiting from accumulated research experience in these fields obtained over 25 years, particularly in the tropics. His experience covers training needs assessment at foreign universities, planning and implementation of university education programs, planning, organization and the realization of national and international research programs and conferences. He has fulfilled a number of advisory and evaluation tasks for national and international organizations, especially in relation to ecological research and conservation programs in developing countries. Many years of working experience in the African and South and Southeast Asian regions have given him a good understanding of these last.

Author of over 60 scientific papers and reviews published in international journals, Walter Erdelen is also the editor of three books, among others, on tropical ecosystems, landscape management in Sri Lanka, and sustainable use of reptiles in Indonesia. He is also the translator and editor of a book on the natural history of New Zealand and of the Environmental Monitoring Handbook for Tsetse Control Operations.

His professional affiliations include: Society for Conservation Biology, USA; The World Conservation Union (IUCN), Species Survival Commission, USA; Ecological Society of America, USA; American Society of Naturalists, USA and the Society of Systematic Biology, USA

Gisbert GLASER, Germany

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences a.i.
March 2000 to February 2001
Gisbert GLASER

Born in Gablonz, Germany, in 1939. Gisbert GLASER obtained a doctorate in geography from the University of Heidelberg (1965). He then undertook a university career with teaching and post-doctoral research tasks (Heidelberg, 1965 to 1971); including altogether one year of field research in Brazil.

Gisbert Glaser joined UNESCO in Paris in October 1971 as Programme Specialist (Division of Natural Resources Research). He became member of the new Division of Ecological Sciences in 1974. His main responsibility in MAB during its first decade was to coordinate MAB activities in island and mountain regions, and in arid and semi-arid lands. Promoted P-5 in 1982 (entrusted in addition with managing a large portfolio of extra budgetary projects, and interagency activities), Glaser was appointed Deputy Coordinator for Environmental Programmes (D-1) in 1990. Following the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992), Glaser became Coordinator Environmental Programmes in 1993 (promotion to D-2 in 1994).

Entrusted with new intersectoral coordination responsibilities (for sustainable development programme elements in SC, ED, and SHS), Glaser became a member of the Directorate General and was promoted Assistant Director-General in January 1998. Before retiring in March 2001, he also served as ADG/SC a.i. from 1 March 2000 to 28 February 2001.

He published over forty papers in refereed journals and in edited scientific books on his research in geography, MAB research work and on science for sustainable development issues. He was equally the author of a large number of reports published by UNESCO and ICSU (after 2001) on international environmental sciences domains, and member, and sometimes director, of the editorial team/board of numerous UNESCO and several other publications.

Maurizio IACCARINO, Italy

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences
May 1996- February 2001

Born in Rome, Italy in 1938, Maurizio Iaccarino obtained a M.D. degree in Medicine and Surgery, University of Naples in 1962. Between 1966 and 1968 he was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University.

In 1963, he became a staff scientist at the Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, Naples (founded by a previous ADG/SC, Adriano Buzzati Traverso). M. Iaccarino headed IGB's Molecular Biology Department from 1976-1979, was Director of Research from 1980 to 1984 to become Director of the Institute, 1985-1993. He was also Professor of Biological Chemistry, 1971, member of a PhD programme in Molecular and Cellular Genetics at the University of Naples (1983-1996) and Professor of Microbiology from 1986 onwards. In 1994-1995, was Director of the Institute of Molecular Genetics, Alghero, Sardinia. He became Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO in May 1996.

Winner of several prizes: Prize of the Academy of Medicine, 1978; Borgia Prize, Accademia Lincei, 1985; Consorzio Biotecnologia, 1996; Marotta Prize, Accademia Scienze, 1997; Degree Biological Sciences, Honoris Causa University of Tuscia, Italy, 1997.

Maurizio Iaccarino is co-author of about 90 publications in international scientific journals, more than 100 scientific reports and editor of several books. His research interests deal with protein structure and characterization, DNA methylation, genetics and molecular biology of Rhizobium-legume symbiosis. He has published several papers on Science and Society issues.

He is member of EMBO and TWAS as well as of several other scientific societies. He has also been member of the Board of Trustees of the Human Frontier Science Programme.

Adnan BADRAN, Jordan

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

January 1990-April 1996

Born in Jarash, Jordan in December 1935, Adnan Badran has a B.Sc. physiology from Oklahoma State University, and an M.Sc and Ph.D in Biology from Michigan State University (USA). Between 1960 and 1966, he carried out research at Michigan State University, and in Boston, USA

He returned to Jordan in 1966 where he taught and conducted research at the University of Jordan to then become Professor and founding Dean of its Faculty of Science (1971-1976). Between 1976 and 1988, he was the founding President of Yarmouk University and Founder of the Science and Engineering Campus at JUST University for Science and Technology; Jordan: Between 1986-87 he was the founding Secretary-General of the Higher Council for Science and Technology in Jordan. In early 1989, he became Jordan's Minister of Agriculture and later in 1989, Minister of Education.

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO, between 1990 and 1993 (post he occupied by interim until 1996), he was also Deputy Director-General of UNESCO between 1993 and Aug. 1998.

Adnan Badran is the author of 15 books on science and the environment and more than 70 scientific papers in the field of plant phenolics and oxidation enzymes, various reviews and articles on higher education, science and technology policy.

Professional affiliations include: Secretary-General, Vice-President and Fellow of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) since 1991, Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) since 1993 and Fellow of the "Comité des Hautes Institutions" of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities since 1997, and Aspen executive fellow since 1985, member of the Arab thought forum and world affairs council since 1980. He is currently president of Philadelphia University in Jordan, and president of the Arab Academy of Sciences (AAS) in Beirut.

Sorin DUMITRESCU, Romania

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences a.i.
July 1988-December 1989

Born 1928 in Romania, Sorin Dumitrescu graduated from the Civil Engineering University in Bucharest in 1950 (diploma in Hydraulic Engineering). He obtained an MSc (St. Petersburg, 1963) and PhD (Bucharest, 1969) in hydrology. Between, 1950 and 1959 he was hydrologist and then Chief hydrologist at Romania's Hydrological and Meteorological Service and then Director of the Water Research Institute in Bucharest until 969.

From 1964 onwards, Sorin Dumitrescu participated in all major meetings related to the planning and implementation of the International Hydrological Decade. He was Vice-chairman of the IHD Co-ordinating Council, 1967-1969. Director of the Water Sciences Division, UNESCO and Secretary of the IHP (November 1969-June 1988), he became DADG/SC and focal point on environmental matters (February 1984-June 1988). He was acting Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO between July 1988 and December 1989, with the grade of Assistant Director-General (October 1988-January 1990).

Sorin Dumitrescu was awarded the IAHS International Hydrology Prize 1988.

Scientific publications include various papers on different aspects of hydrology, a monograph on Romania's water resources (co-author), a monograph on the hydrology of Romanian rivers (co-author), a comprehensive study on river flow fluctuations (PhD thesis).

Abdul Razzak KADDOURA, Syria

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences
April 1976- November 1988
Abdul Razzak KADDOURA

Born in Syria in 1928, Abdul Razzak Kaddoura first studied at the Brussels University, Belgium then obtained his PhD in nuclear physics from Bristol University, UK in 1961. He was professor of physics and then Director of the Engineering Science Faculty, Damascus University until 1968 and Vice-President of Damascus University 1968-1969. He was then invited to carry out research at the nuclear physics laboratory, Oxford. University, UK. In 1971, he returned to Damascus University.

Author of several books written for Damascus University and publications and articles on nuclear physics of high energies published in scientific reviews in Syria, Italy, UK and other countries.

Member of UNESCO'S international Commission for the Development of Education (1971-1972) from 1974 onwards he was Rector of Damascus University, post he occupied until he was nominated Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences in April 1976.

James M. HARRISON, Canada

Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences
January 1973- March 1976

Born in Canada in 1915, James Harrison obtained his B.SC degree at the University of Manitoba in 1935, and, after transferring to Queen's University, earned his M.A. in 1941 and PhD in 1943.
His early field work for the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) produced authoritative reports on the mineral-bearing regions of the Canadian Shield and provided him with knowledge and experience that would stand him in good stead as he rose, during his 17-year tenure, through the ranks of the GSC to become Director General in 1956. Under his guidance, the scientific organization enjoyed one of its most successful periods in its history. The GSC more than doubled its staff, greatly increased its budget and, in 1959, moved to new headquarters and decentralized across the country. A variety of new challenges were met, including mapping the Canadian Arctic, studying the huge continental shelves and slopes and increasing research and innovative applications in the newly developing fields of geochemistry and geophysics to name but a few.

James Harrison was also one of the founding fathers of the Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and was elected its first President in 1961.

James Harrison was then Under-Secretary of State in the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to become, in 1972, deputy Minister of the same Department. Between 1966 and 1968, he was also President of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). He became Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences in January 1973.

After retirement, he served, among others, as Chairman of ICSU's Committee on Nuclear Waste Disposal. James Harrison died in 1990.


Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences
September 1969- December 1972

Born in Italy, 1913, Adriano Buzzati-Traverso carried out his undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the USA, His research, on population genetics, focused on the Drosophila fruit fly. After completing his PhD, in 1937 he joined the Faculty of Zoology in Pavia, Italy. He left the post in 1944, to avoid serving the fascist government of Salò. End 1945 he was nominated professor of Zoology at the University of Milan where he was one of the first to teach genetics. Between 1953 and 1959, he was Professor of Biology, University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, USA

Founder in 1961, and Director of the International Laboratory of Genetics and Biophysics in Naples, Adriano Buzzati-Traverso introduced and developed Molecular Genetics and Molecular Biology in Italy which, in turn, encouraged the return of Italian researchers working abroad and attracted foreign ones.

He obtained an Honoris Causa degree in Medicine (Louven, Belgium). He was President of the Association des Radio-biologists des Pays de l'Euratom, Member of the Executive Council of the International Cell Research Organization (ICRO), President of Pugwash-Italy, Member of the Club of Rome, Founding member of EMBO, Senior Scientific Adviser of UNEP (1973-1980) and President de la Societé Européenne de Culture.

Adriano Buzzati-Traverso was the author of several scientific books and articles, including, with Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, La teoria dell'Urto e le Unità Biologiche Elementari, Milan 1948 and in 1977 the UNESCO report on The scientific enterprise today and tomorrow: From 1968 onwards he directed the scientific publication Sapere.

He died in 1983. The Institute he founded is now the Institute of genetics and biophysics "Adriano Buzzati Traverso".

M. Malcolm ADISESHIAH, India

Deputy Director-General,
was Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences
between April and September 1969


Assistant Director-General in charge of Science
September 1964-March 1969

Alexey Matveyev was the first Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences. Born in Moscow in 1922, he studied at the Moscow State University and was awarded his doctor's degree there in 1959 where he become professor of theoretical physics. He is the author of a numerous scientific papers and two books: Electrodynamics and the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and Structure of Atoms.

The appointment of an Assistant Director-General in charge of science followed the re-organization of UNESCO's natural science department into two new departments, one concerned with the advancement of science and the other with the application of science to development.


Director, Department of Sciences
January 1959-December 1964

Victor A. KODVA
Born in Vladikavkaz (Ordzhonikidze), Russia in 1904, Victor Kovda graduated from the Agricultural Institute in Krasnodar in 1927. In 1931, he organized a laboratory of saline soils in the V.V. Dokuchaev Soil Institute and directed it until 1959. He was Professor at Moscow State University from 1939-1941, and between 1941-1942 directed the Institute of Botany and Soil Science of the Uzbek branch of the Academy of Sciences. He was professor and chairman of the sub department of soil science of the biology and soil department of Moscow State University from 1953 onward. Director of the Department of Natural Sciences at UNESCO between 1959-1964 Victor Kovda played a decisive role in the development of UNESCO's environmental programmes and was the initiator and director of the Soil Map of the World, and international project of the FAO and UNESCO. He became President of the International Society of Soil Sciences in 1968.

After leaving UNESCO he continued his scientific career in the USSR as professor at the University Lomonossov, Moscow and as a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences where he developed the Institute of Soils Sciences at Pushino. He continued to actively participate in the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and was President of the Scientific Committee for Environmental Problems (SCOPE).

Author of several publications, Victor Kovda's works have practical implications for the development of new lands, including construction of irrigation systems and reclamation of solonetses and saline soils. His main studies deal with the soils of the USSR, China and Egypt. He was awarded the State Prize of the USSR (1951, 1953), the V. V. Dokuchaev Gold Medal (1967) and the Silver Medal of the French Association of Soil Scientists (1971)

He died in 1991.

Pierre V. AUGER, France

Director, Natural Sciences Section/Department
April 1948 - December 1958
Pierre V. AUGER

Born in Paris in 1899, Pierre Auger attended the Ecole Normale Supérieure first to study biology, but already showed an interest in atomic physics. Between 1922 and 1942, he was first Doctor ès Science, then Assistant to become finally Professor of Physics at the Sorbonne (1937), where he devoted his professional life to experimental physics in the fields of Atomic physics (photoelectric effect), Nuclear physics (slow neutrons) and Cosmic ray physics (atmospheric air-showers). Between 1939 and 1941, head of the documentation service of the CNRS, he joined the Free French forces and participated in the creation of a French-British-Canadian group on atomic energy research, University of Chicago and Montreal before joining operational groups in London in 1944.

In 1945, Pierre Auger became Director of Higher Education in French Ministry of National Education where he participated in the creation of the French Atomic Energy Commission. Member of the UNESCO's Executive Board from 1946 to1948, he was appointed Director of UNESCO's Natural Science Section/Department in 1948. During his mandate, he played a decisive role in the creation of the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) (1954).

After leaving UNESCO in 1959, and among many other activities, he was Director of Cosmic Physics Service at the CNRS (1959-1962), Director-General of the European Space Research Organization (1962-1967) and also, between 1964 and 1967, chaired ESRO, an international organism of cooperation between 10 European countries for satellite projects. Pierre Auger is also the author of many scientific works on x-rays, neutrons and cosmic rays. He died in Paris in 1993.

In 2002, named after him, the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory set up in Western Argentina began studies of the universe's highest energy particles with unprecedented collecting power and experimental controls.

Joseph NEEDHAM, U.K.

Head Natural Sciences Section

December 1946-April 1948

Born in London in 1900, Joseph Needham studied biochemistry at Cambridge University, UK where in 1924 he obtained his PhD and in 1933 was appointed Sir William Dun Reader in that subject. Between 1942 and 1946, he was head of the British Scientific Mission in China and Counselor at the British Embassy, Chungking, to establish liaisons between Chinese and Western scientists. Between 1943 and 1945, he was very active in promoting an "International Science Co-operation Service". Ultimately his international lobbying and diplomacy helped to ensure the incorporation of natural sciences in UNESCO's mandate.

After his term as first Head of UNESCO's Natural Sciences Section, Joseph Needham resumed his work at Cambridge University, UK.

Joseph Needham is the author of a vast number of erudite scientific and philosophical books including Chemical Embryology (1931) Levellers and English Revolution (1939), Science and Civilization in China (Cambridge, 16 volumes, 1st volume published in 1954). A fervent member of the Church of England, he was also a Marxist, loyal to the Chinese communist regime until the double shock of the cultural revolution and the massacre of Tiananmen in 1989. He died in 1995.



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We are deeply saddened to announce Dr. Michel Batisse's death in Paris on Monday 27 September 2004. This great visionary and father of the Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) contributed to the architecture and development of UNESCO's programmes on environment and natural resource issues, as well as to its general standing in the international community of nations. (More)

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