Obituary – Albert Pissart

In the tradition of the geographical school of Liège, Albert’s research focused initially on fluvial geomorphology, in particular along the Meuse valley. The significant imprint of cold climate conditions on terrace development led him to become interested in periglacial processes. He combined laboratory and field experiments, but continued his field reconstructions of palaeo-permafrost morphology throughout his career. Notable examples of his research are his field experiments on slope processes in the French Alps, his laboratory experiments on sediment deformation due to freeze-thaw processes and his work on the frost mounds (lithalsas) in the Ardennes in Belgium. He travelled to the High Arctic of Canada together with Hugh French and was one of the few geomorphologists who was able to combine investigation of present-day and past environments to the mutual benefit of both.  Despite his interests in periglacial research, he remained involved in the correlation of Meuse terraces and in the history of the drainage pattern within that river basin. He was keen to discover tectonic imprints on particular drainage systems and on the overall geomorphological development of the Ardennes.

The national and international recognition of his scientific work is indicated by the numerous prizes and honours he received. These included the Paul Fourmarier Prize, a Franqui Chair, honorary memberships in the Geographical Society of Poland and the International Geomorphological Association, member and president of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Belgium and director of its Sciences Division. In addition, he was heavily involved for many years in the International Geographical Union’s Commission on Periglacial Environments and within the International Permafrost Association.

Albert had a lengthy publication record, at first writing his papers exclusively in French, but later publishing in English too. Personally, I was happy to rely on his valuable advice in the reviewing and editing of manuscripts, as he always looked for the positive sides of papers and stressed that the authors should be encouraged. He helped found Permafrost and Periglacial Processes and was for many years Associate Editor of the journal.

We will remember Albert Pissart as a superb scientist, always ready to help, always happy to carry on an honest scientific discussion (especially) when opinions were diverging. He was a true gentleman and his warm and charming personality will be missed throughout the periglacial, permafrost and geomorphological communities.

Jef Vandenberghe, 4th July 2014, VU University Amsterdam

Note: this obituary draws upon some factual information within the formal obituary of the rector of the University of Liège.