Terra Preta de Indio
Biochar Soil Management
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In memoriam Wim Sombroek, *1934-†2003
Wim Sombroek passed away on December 19, 2003. Wim was not only a respected scholar, Secretary General of the International Society of Soil Science from 1978 to 1990, Director of the Division of Land and Water in FAO and an officer in a number of ISSS/IUSS Working Groups and Commissions, but also a tireless promoter of research on Terra Preta de Indio. Starting with his PhD Dissertation research, he was fascinated by these soils throughout his entire career,- whether he was stationed in Rome or Nairobi. During the past years, he was the mover and shaker behind the scenes and in the spotlight. Most of what has been achieved and initiated throughout the past years in Terra Preta research is due to his tireless efforts.

An "In Memoriam" is placed on the website of the International Union of Soil Sciences: http://www.iuss.org/popup/Wim_Sombroek.htm

Wim was a warm and caring friend to all of us, a wonderful colleague, and an exceptional scientist. We are tremendously grateful that he shared the past years with us in his passion for Terra Preta research.

We will miss him very much,
His Terra Preta Friends
Below is a poem written by Dick Arnold, former Director of the National Soils Bureau of the US, in Memoriam of Wim Sombroek (with permission by the author):


Each of us has a story to tell this day
Of meeting Wim Sombroek along the way
He touched our lives in ways oft untold
And helped us become ‘champions with gold’

He had a passion for land as we know
Fueled by the Amazon where jungles grow
A flame that didn’t flicker or ever go out
His last endeavor Terra Petra still to shout

What made this man a man to remember?
Dedication from January through December?
A ready zeal to impart his vast knowledge
To those who never had seen a college?

Perhaps it was the breath of his interests keen
Archeology nearby, within, without - to be seen
And wild orchids garnered in an exotic place
In his green house always finding space

Was it not the pillars there at home?
Wife Willimijn and four girls that let him roam
Whose constancy supported his very being
Welcomed his return late in the evening?

What do you recall when you hear his name?
A towering presence with mustache and mane
Blue eyes twinkling through gold-rimmed glasses
A fat little notebook shock full of addresses

Or maybe the pause as he ‘rolled’ his own
Smoke rising gently as softly it was blown
Or the patient way he slightly leaned over
Catching your phrases like blossoms of clover

I, too, have a special way to recall –
Several clusters of Dutch bulbs one fall
He planted along my garden maze
Now each spring he brightens my gaze

I hear his laughter, feel his handshake
I treasure the moments we dared to take
To dream our dreams, to vision the future
Returning to Pedology, our souls to nurture

Are we mourning – never; rejoicing – ah, yes, ever
Along with insights, strengths, and wisdom so clever
There was gentleness, love, and tenderness, too
Wim Sombroek – our hearts give thanks to you.

rwa 1-15-04