Herman Th. Verstappen - Curriculum vitae #

Born: July 30, 1925; The Hague, the Netherlands
Nationality: Dutch
Marital status: Married, 3 children
Languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Spanish


At secondary school (Dalton-HBS) in the Hague Herman Th. Verstappen joined the Netherlands Youth Association of Naturalists(NJN)that led him to bird and collect erratics, and made him a real outdoor man keen on walking, swimming, cycling. He later became an enthusiastic mountaineer, climbed in the Alps, two first ascents in the Central Range of West New Guinea (one of which to the eternal snow, 4700m) and all volcanoes in Indonesia above 3000 m. Riding and jogging have been favoured passtimes for many years.

  • Physical geography, University Utrecht, the Netherlands,1942-1949, ("candidaats"/B.Sc. 1946; Drs/M.Sc. 1949)
  • Dr.Sc (phys.math.) University Utrecht, 1953. Thesis: DJAKARTA BAY, a geomorphological study on shoreline development. Promotor: Professor Jacoba HOL.

  • 1949-1957 Staff member, Geographical Institute of the Gvt. Survey Department, Jakarta, Indonesia. Airphoto interpretation and small-scale cartography. Geomorphological research: Java, Sumatra, Moluccas, Irian Jaya/New Guinea.
    • Part-time lecturer:
      • Geography teachers training courses Jakarta (1950-1957)
      • Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta (1953-1957)
      • University of Indonesia, ITB-Bandung (1954-1957)
  • 1957-1989 Reader,since 1968 full-professor, of geomorphology at the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), Delft/Enschede, the Netherlands. Post-graduate teaching, research and consulting abroad. Also: Guest professor at the International Course for Hydraulic Engineering, Delft (1963-1974) and the International Course for Building and Planning, Rotterdam (1967-1972).
  • 1988-1899 Visiting professor, University of Basel, Switzerland
  • 1984-2000 Member Executive Committee International Geographical Union: Vice-President 1984-1988, First Vice-President 1988-1992; President 1992-1996; Past-President 1996-2000
  • 1989-1999 Member/as of July 1995 Chairman, ICSU (International Council for Science) Special Committee for the U.N. International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.

  • Applied geomorphology and related geomorphological surveying
  • The use of aerospace technology in geomorphology
  • Natural hazard research and disaster mitigation
  • Environmental geomorphology and natural resource assessment
  • Tropical geomorphology end palaeoclimates
  • Regional specialization: Indonesia, South and Southeast Asia


Articles: More than 200 publications in scientific journals.

  • Djakarta Bay, a geomorphological study on shoreline development (Dr.thesis, 1953)
  • Aerial photographs in geology and geomorphology. ITC textbook VII.2 (1963)
  • A geomorphological reconnaissance of Sumatra and adjacent islands (Wolters, 1964)
  • The use of aerial photographs in geomorphologic mapping ITC textbook VII.5 (1973)
  • Remote sensing in geomorphology (Elsevier, 1977)
  • Applied geomorphology (Elsevier, 1983)
  • Outline of the geomorphology of Indonesia (ITC Publ.79, 2000)
  • Zwerftocht door een wereld in beweging. (v.Gorcum, 2006)

Editorial activities over the years:

Die Erde, Earth Science Reviews, ITC Journal,Geografiske Annaler, Géographies, Geoforum. GeoJournal, Journal of Coastal Research, Photogrammetria, Revista Española de Geografía, Revista Mexicana de Geografía (UNAM), Revue de Géologie dynamique et de Géographie physique/Geodynamica Acta, Revue de Géomorphologie dynamique.


Educational tasks began as of 1950 with in-service training at the Geographical Institute in Jakarta, subsequently at the Geography Teachers Training Courses,Jakarta, Geology and Geodesy departments of the ITB(Institut Teknologi Bandung) University of Indonesia and last not least the newly established Geographical Institute of the Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta where he also was instrumental in formulating curricula, ordering books and equipment, etc. These activities came to an end when all Dutch citizens were expulsed in 1957 because of the Irian Jaya/New Guinea dispute.

Educational support for geography at Gadjah Mada University was resumed, however, in 1972 - when the political relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands were re-established in the form of University Cooperation projects sponsored by NUFFIC (Netherlands University Foundation for International Cooperation). The "SerayuValley Project", in which ITC and several Universities cooperated, was initiated by Verstappen and his counterpart and former student Prof. Kardono Darmoyuwono. It was followed-up by the Earth Science and Human Geography projects. The NUFFIC projects lasted till 1992. By that time a considerable number of M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees had been awarded and a well-established Faculty of Geography existed thanks to the perseverance of the Indonesian counterparts.

Other educational activities in Indonesia and for Indonesians in the Netherlands comprise of:

  • World Bank Training Course Applied Geomorphologic Surveys(1983/85)
  • Six months'World Bank Training Course in Volcanic Geomorphology and Volcanic Hazards (1987)
  • 11 months'ITC Course Geographical Landscape Analysis including field work in Indonesia, NUFFIC-sponsored eight times in 1980's.

Educational tasks at ITC began in 1957 and included teaching of landform characteristics to photogrammetrists and cartograhers, geomorphology and related image interpretation to geologists and soil scientists, organizing post-graduate courses in geomorpholoy for geomorphologists and, in later years, guiding students in M.Scand Ph.D. thesis work. The number of students taught geomorphology over the years includes hundreds of geomorphologists and thousands of others, mostly coming from tropical and developing countries. Emphasis was on applied geomorpholical surveys, natural resource studies and natural hazard assessment. Special educational tasks carried out include the following:

  • Workshops, seminars and short training courses(apart from those already mentioned in relation to Indonesia):
    • UNESCO training course Applied Geomorphology, Italy (1968)
    • UNESCO training course Applied Geomorphology, Senegal (1971)
    • Three seminars Applied Geomorphology in Argentina (1984) (Neuquen, Santa Fe and Tucuman)
    • Workshop Academia Sinica Geomorphological Mapping using Satellite Data, Nanjing (1986)
    • ITC/UNESCO workshop Remote Sensing Applications, Bogotá (1986)
    • UNAM workshop Applied Geomorphology/Remote Sensing, México(1992)
  • External Examiner Universitas Kebangsaan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1970-1973) National College f.Agricultural Engineering,Silsoe,UK (1977-1980)
  • Promotor/Co-promotor/Member of the Committee for Ph.D. candidates at the Universities of Amsterdam (UvA and VUA), Bombay, Colombo, Ghent, Paris, Sheffield, Yogyakarta (UGM), etc.
  • Guest-lecturer International Course for Hydraulic Engineering, Delft (1963-1974) International Course Building and Planning, Rotterdam (1967-1972)
  • Visiting Professor Geomorphology and Satellite Remote Sensing at the University of Basel, Switzerland (1988/1989)


Particularly the years 1949-1959 were marked by extensive field investigations in many parts of Indonesia. Living for months in the jungle, climbing volcanoes and traversing high mountain ranges suited him as an outdoor man and aroused his scientific curiosity. Following research on coastal evolution and coral reefs in Jakarta Bay and other localities in Java, he explored the Wissellakes area in Central New Guinea (1949), Sumatra (5x in 1950, 1954 and 1955), the Moluccas (1956), the Birdshead of New Guinea and the adjacent Radjah Empat islands (1958) and took part in the Star Mountains Expedition in the Central Range that same island (6 months,1959). This work resulted in numerous publications, including two books, on the landforms of Sumatra (1964) and of the whole country(2000).

The research related to lowlands and reefs, raised coral reefs, volcanoes, tropical karst, coastal dunes etc. Two major lines of research gradually emerged, however. First, the interaction of climatic/neotectonic factors in landform evolution in Indonesia and in SE Asia at large. He revealed the effects of interannual variations of the monsoons already in his doctor's dissertation and extended this in later years to much larger variations during the Pleistocene. He also found that neotectonism in plate contact zones leads to processes and developments that differ essentially from that known from cratogene areas in humid tropical and savanna conditions.

A second major line of research soon became applied geomorphology of which he became a leading scientist. The fact that squatters were living on his doorstep in Jakarta prevented him from only concentrating on coral reefs and other fascinating geomorphologic subjects and prompted him in 1956 to request a Commission Applied Geomorphology of the International Geographical Union (IGU). Applied research was carried out in relation to pioneer settlement land use planning and environment, resource assessment, natural hazard zoning, etc.

These investigations in the humid tropics were followed by arid zone research in the 1960s and 1970s. Surveys in the context of UNESCO's Arid Zone Programme were carried out during missions in Pakistan (Quetta/LasBela 1964-1965) and in India (CAZRI Jodhpur/ Thar Desert, 1967). The central Sahara (Tibesti mountains and lake Palaeochad) were visited in 1970 in collaboration with the German Research Station in Bardai. Drought susceptibility surveying was the aim of investigations carried out in the Kalahari and lake Palaeo-Makgadikgadi, Botswana, 1978. At the same time research in Indonesia continued, mainly through university cooperation projects, and was complemented by work in S and E Asia, in Africa, Latin America and the Mediterranean area.

Research on applied geomorphology, methods of geomorphological survey and application of aerospace technology to natural resource assessment and natural disaster reduction developed during his ITC years. Natural hazards and disaster mitigation became a major specialization as early as 1980 and made him a leading scientist in this area.


  • Member of the Board Royal Dutch Geographical Society (1968-1972)
  • Vice-President/President Netherlands' IGU Committee (1968-1976)
  • Initiator (1956), Member and Secretary of the IGU Commission of AppliedGeomorphology (1956-1968)
  • Secretary/Chairman of the IGU Commission of Geomorphological mapping (1968-1984)
  • Member of the Executive Committee of the IGU (1984-2000), Vice-President 1984-1988; First Vice-President 1988-1992; President 1992-1996; Past-President 1996-2000
  • A "Founding Father", Internat.Assoc. of Geomorphologists IAG

Major efforts/accomplishments when President:
  • IGU's involvement in international/global research programmes
  • The renaissance of geographical thinking: improving the links between physical and human geography
  • Affiliation of the International Association of Geomorphologists(IAG), the International Permafrost Association (IPA) and the International Union for Speleology (UIS) with the IGU
  • Improving contacts with International Cartographic Association
  • Establishing contacts with regional geographical organizations in various parts of the world
  • Stimulating IGU membership of new "countries in transition" in central and eastern Europe and in and other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Revitalization of the IGU in various ways

  • Member Ad-hoc Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (1989)
  • Member, since 1995 Chairman, ICSU Special Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (1990-1999)
  • Member of the General Committee (1992-1996). Major efforts/accomplishments:
    • structuring inter-union ICSU disaster research projects
    • formulating IGU input: flood, drought and mountain hazards
    • allocating ICSU/UNESCO funds for natural disaster research
    • paving the way for post-decade ICSU disaster research

  • Secretary Commission VII, Photo interpretation (1960-1964)
  • Main organizer First Symposium Comm.VII, Delft (1962)
  • Chairman Sci. Committee 7th Symposium Comm.VII, Enschede, 1986
  • Support of request for Associate (and Full) Membership of ICSU

  • Initiator/Member Scientific Board Serayu Valley Project Indonesia (1972-1984) and Earth Science Project VUA (1985-1992)
  • Coordinator Resource Survey Methodology Project, Botswana, Lesotho and Swasiland (1975-1978)
  • Coordinator Rural Development Project SriLanka (1978-1985)
  • Chairman, Ph.D. Committee for International Education Institutes
  • Member Project Committee for Co-financing Higher Education, Projects PC-MHO (1993-2001)

  • Founding/Directing the Applied Geomorphological Survey Division
  • Introducing the ITC System for Geomorphological Mapping
  • Chairman Natural Resource Department (1967-1971)
  • Introducing Natural Hazard Surveys and Disaster Mitigation
  • Advocating/stimulating introduction of M.Sc and Ph.D. studies

  • Gvt.Photogeological survey of New Guinea (1957-1958)
  • Star Mountains Expedition (KNAG/TreubMy) (1959)
  • Expert ECAFE Seminar Aerial Survey Methods, Bangkok (1960)
  • Hydromorphological Survey Rwanda Burundi (CEE) (1961)
  • Expert in International Court of Justice during international boundary dispute Thailand-Cambodia, the Hague (1962)
  • Expert UNESCO Seminar on Humid Tropical Zone Deltas, Dacca (1964)
  • Trans Sumatra Highway Project, geomorphological/eng.geological study for TSH Authority (1969)
  • Applied geomorphological survey Neth.Windward Islands (Caribbean)for Gvt Neth.Antilles (1972)
  • Drought susceptibility survey Botswana (1978)
  • Supervision of erosion survey, Chama Valley, Venezuela (1978)
  • Volcanic hazard assessment of Pereira, Colombia (1986)
  • Boardmember Treub Society f. sci.research in tropics (1960-1985?)
  • Advisor Natural Sciences WOTRO (Netherlands Gvt. Organization for Research in the Tropics(1968-1976)
  • Member Neth.Gvt Advisory Committee on Desertification (1971)
  • Member, Geol. Commission, Royal Neth Acad of Sciences (1979-1987)
  • Advisor Earth Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1981)


Honorary/Corresponding Memberships/Fellowships:
  • Italian Geographical Society, Polish Geographical Society,Mexican
  • Geographical Society, Royal Geographical Society, Deccan Geographical Society, Indian Society for Environment and Culture, Cuban Society for the Environment
  • International Association of Geomohologists (2005)
  • Lauréat d'honneur International Geographical Union (2008)

  • Knight in the Order of the Netherland's Lion(Decree of H.M. Queen Juliana, 1989)
  • Medal, University of Padua
  • Alexander Csoma de Kóros Medal, Hungarian Geographical Society.
  • Medal, Cuban Academy of Sciences
  • Scottish Geographical Medal, Royal Scottish Geographical Society
  • Plancius Medal, Royal Dutch Geographical Society
  • Valentijn Medal, Treub Foundation for Scientific Research in the Tropics
  • Member, Academia Europaea (1992 - present)
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