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Institute of Geography

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Prof. em. Dr. Bruno Messerli

Prof. em. Dr. Bruno Messerli

 Prof. em. Dr. Bruno Messerli


 Email: bmesserli@bluewin.ch
 Phone: ++41 (0)31 819 33 81

 Address: Brünnweid 16
               CH – 3086 Zimmerwald
          or: Institute of Geography
               University of Bern
               Hallerstrasse 12
               CH – 3012 Bern

Curriculum vitae

  • Born 1931, married, 4 children, school and studies in Bern.
  • 1962 PhD, 1965 «Venia docendi» (Habilitation), 1969 Full Professor, 1978 – 1983 Director Institute of Geography, 1986/87 Rector University of Bern, 1996 Professor Emeritus, 1996 – 2000 President of the International Geographical Union (IGU).

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Research activities

  • 1958 – 1976 Fieldwork in the mountains around the Mediterranean Sea and in Northern Africa from the High Atlas to the Tibesti in the central Sahara and to Mt. Kenya, a transect from the Alps to the Equator: Recent and past glaciation, geomorphology, climate history, palaeoecology, natural resources.
  • 1977 – 1986 Director National Research Programme «UNESCO – Man and Biosphere» in the Swiss Alps: Man’s Impact on Mountain Ecosystems. Cooperation of natural and social sciences, cooperation with other alpine countries.
  • 1979 – 1991 UNU – Mountain Programme in the Himalaya with fieldwork in Nepal: natural hazard mapping, land degradation, water resources.
  • 1988 – 1996 Fieldwork in the High Andes of the Atacama Region, research in the mountains of the extreme arid zone (continuation from the Tibesti): Recent and past glaciation, climate change, natural resources.
  • 1992 – 1996 Floods in Bangladesh: «History, Dynamics and Rethinking the Role of the Himalayas» (Hofer and Messerli 2006), a continuation of the UNU – Himalayan Research Programme.
  • 1996 Official retirement: For further activities see chapters «International and national commissions, nominations and responsibilities».

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Academic memberships

  • 1976 – 1982 Vice-President of the Swiss Academy of Sciences.
  • 1984 Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, Halle, Germany.
  • 1988 Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, Austria.
  • 1989 Honorary member of the China Ass. for Scientific Expeditions (CASE)
  • 1990 Academia Europaea, London.
  • 1992 Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz, Germany.
  • 1997 Honorary member of the Swiss Academy of Sciences.
  • 2003 Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.
  • 2006 World Academy of Art and Science, Washington, San Francisco.

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Geographical memberships

  • 1992 Vice-President International Geographical Union (Washington)
  • 1996 President International Geographical Union (Den Haag)
  • 2000 – 2004 Past-President International Geographical Union (Seoul)
  • 1991 Honorary member of the Geographical Society of Bern.
  • 1998 Honorary member of the Swiss Geomorphological Society.
  • 1998 Membre (Diplôme) de la Société de Géographie, Paris.
  • 1998 Special present: Symposium Arab Geographers in Sanaa, Jemen.
  • 2000 Special present: 29th Internat. Geogr. Congress, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2000 Honorary member of the Russian Geographical Society.
  • 2001 Socio d’Onore de la Societa’ Geografica Italiana, Rome.
  • 2002 Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London
  • 2004 Honorary member of the IGU – Mountain Commission.

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Teaching, supervising, advising

  • 104 Diplomas (master thesis)
  • 35 PhDs
  • 9 Habilitations

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Special awards

  • 1963 First prize of the Faculty of Science, University of Bern, for the study «Problems of climate change in Anatolia, Turkey».
  • 1987 Premio Internazionale «I Migliori dell’Anno», Scena Illustrata, Roma, per il programma UNESCO l’uomo e la biosfera.
  • 1988 UN-Global 500 Honour Roll of the United Nations Environment Programme in recognition of outstanding achievements for the protection and improvement of the environment.
  • 1988 Doron Preis für die Förderung der interdisziplinären Zusammenarbeit in der Wissenschaft, Zug, Switzerland.
  • 1990 Marcel-Benoist Prize for Bruno Messerli, Hans Oeschger and Werner Stumm, in this year handed over by the President of the Swiss Federal Government Flavio Cotti.
  • 1998 Dr. rer. nat. h.c. of the Free University of Berlin, Department of Geosciences, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the University.
  • 2002 Gold Medal (Founder’s Medal) of the Royal Geographical Society, approved by Her Majesty the Queen, London.
  • 2002 Gold Medal – Mountain Award of the King Albert I Memorial Foundation, Engadin, Switzerland.
  • 2002 Prix Vautrin Lud, «Nobel de Géographie», 13e Festival International de Géographie, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France.
  • 2002 FAO – Medal for the UN – International Year of Mountains, Global Mountain Summit in Bishkek, Kyrghyzstan.
  • 2006 Franz von Hauer – Medaille of the Austrian Geographical Society on the occasion of its 150th Anniversary.
  • 2007 Honorary member of the Alpine Club, London, the oldest Alpine Club of the world on the occasion of its 150th Anniversary in Zermatt.
  • 2010 Dr. h.c. of the University of Innsbruck, Faculty of Sciences.

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International commissions, nominations, responsibilities

  • 1968 Fellowship of the Alexander von Humboldt – Foundation (Bonn, Germany) for the fieldwork in the Tibesti Mountains, central Sahara.
  • 1979 – 1996 Coordinator, together with Jack Ives, of the United Nations University (UNU) Programme «Highland-Lowland Interactive System».
  • 1980 – 1988 International Geographical Union (IGU): Chairman of the Commission on Mountain Geoecology.
  • 1983 Founding member of the ICIMOD in Kathmandu (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development). Prep. Meetings in Paris (UNESCO) and Kathmandu.
  • 1984 – 1990 (?) International Union of Biological Sciences: Member of the Steering Committee for the Tropical Mountain Ecosystem Programme (Decade of the Tropics).
  • 1986 and 1991 Founding member of the African and the Andean Mountain Association in Ethiopia and Chile with the support of UNESCO and UNU.
  • 1987 ICALPE: International Centre for Alpine Environment. Foundation President for about 3 years. The centre was transferred to Italy 1995.
  • 1988 – 1992 Co-Chairman of the International Scientific Coordination Committee for a Mountain Research Programme in the USSR (Tajik SSR).
  • 1992 UNCED: Member of the official Swiss Delegation to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
  • 1993 – 2008 IUCN: Member of the «World Commission on Protected Areas», Sub-Programme «Mountain Biome».
  • 1995 – 2001 Director of the IGBP core project office of the «Past Global Change Programme» (PAGES) with Frank Oldfield as Executive Director.
  • 1996 – 1998 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): Member of the Steering Committee of the Megascience Forum on Global-Scale Issues (Schweizerischer Delegierter des Bundesamtes für für Bildung und Wissenschaft, Bern).
  • 1996 – 2006 Mountain Research Initiative (MRI): Foundation process from IGBP Conference 1996 in Münstereifel, Germany (first mountain session) to 1999 Shonan Village, Japan (formally endorsed by IGBP, BAHC, GCTE, PAGES and LUCC). Objective: Implementation as an intercore project collaboration.
  • 1997 Member of the official Swiss Delegation to the UN special General Assembly, Rio + 5, for the evaluation of Agenda 21, New York.
  • 1997 – 2003 International Foundation for Science (IFS), Stockholm: Member and for four years Chairman of the Board of Trustees (Delegate of the Swiss National Science Foundation).
  • 1998 – 2002 UN-International Year of Mountains 2002: First draft 1998, in the following years preparatory work in cooperation with FAO and SDC.
  • 2000 – 2003 START – global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training: Member of the Scientific Steering Committee, Washington.
  • 2000 – 2006 Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA): Founding member and member of the first Scientific Steering Committee.
  • 2001 – 2003 The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: Several meetings in Abisko: The Abisko Agenda, 2002, for the «Bishkek Mountain Summit» and the private Royal Colloquium «Mountain Areas – A Global Resource» with his Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden 2003.
  • 2002 – 2008 President of the King Albert I Memorial Foundation (King Albert Mountain Award, every second year a spec. ceremony, Engadin).
  • 2002 – 2010 Austrian Academy of Sciences: Member of the Board of Trustees for Urban and Regional Studies and since 2006 member of the Council for Social Sciences at the Academy, especially for the Mountain Research Programme at the University of Innsbruck.
  • 2003 Organization of a Mountain Contribution to the UN-International Year of Freshwater and to the third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan.
  • 2006 – 2009 International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal: Chair of the Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) and Vice Chair of the Board of Governors.
  • 2009 – 2011 Special Invitee to the ICIMOD Board.
  • 2010 – 2012 University of Innsbruck: Chair of the Strategy Board of the «ALPS Programme»: Climate Change and Adaptation Technologies.
  • 2011 Bhutan: Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas (Four Eastern Himalayan Countries).

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National commissions, nominations, responsibilities

  • 1966 – 1968 President of the Assistant-Association of the University of Bern in a critical time for the promotion of young talented scientists.
  • 1974/75 – 1986 President of the Swiss National Committee for the UNESCO Programme Man and Biosphere (Bundesamt für Umwelt).
  • 1978 – 1986: Director, together with Paul Messerli, of the National Research Programme Man and Biosphere in the Swiss Alps (Swiss National Science Foundation).
  • 1979 – 1986 Member of the Commission for the Protection of the Environment of the Canton of Bern: Report for the Government.
  • 1980s President of the «Naturforschende Gesellschaft Bern» and Vice President of the Geographical Society of Bern.
  • 1984 – 1985: Membre du Bureau exécutif de la Commission Nationale Suisse pour l’UNESCO.
  • 1984 – 1989: Mitglied des Zentralvorstandes von HELVETAS.
  • 1985 Ende der militärischen Dienstzeit, Oberstleutnant, (1390 Diensttage), letzter Dienst im Armeestab.
  • 1987 – 1989 Swiss University Conference: Member of a Working Group for Ecology and Environment.
  • 1987 As Rector of the University: Establishing a Professorship and a Forum for General Ecology, based on a political intervention in the parliament of the canton of Bern (1984).
  • 1989 – 1993 Swiss University Conference: Chairman of the first commission for the Introduction and Coordination of Environmental Sciences in Research and Teaching at Swiss Universities.
  • 1989 – 1995 Member of the Research Council and 1993 – 1995 Vice-President National Research Programmes, Swiss National Science Foundation.
  • 1991 – 1996 University of Bern: President of the commission for the election of the Rector and the Vice-Rectors.
  • 1991 – 1993 First Chairman of the new Swiss Priority Programme «Environmental Technology and Environmental Research» (SPP Environment) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (Decision of the National Parliament on September 30, 1991).
  • 1992 – 1996 Institut Universitaire d’Etude du Développement (IUED), Geneva: Membre du Comité consultatif.
  • 1992 – 1996 Green Cross Switzerland: Foundation member. (International Green Cross founded 1993, President Michail Gorbatschew).
  • 1993/1994 Kommission Reorganisation Landesnachrichtendienst, (Delegiert von Bundesrat Flavio Cotti für den Bereich Umwelt).
  • 1998 – 2000 Mitglied im Vorstand der Schweizerischen Friedensstiftung
  • 2007/2008 «The Alps», IMAX Film, Cooperation as Scientific Adviser.
  • 2011 Patronatskomitee Alpines Museum der Schweiz (ALPS).
  • 2012 Patronatskomitee‚ 100 Jahre Schweizerischer Nationalpark, 2014.

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Editorial work, editorial boards

  • 1980 Mountain Research and Development (UNU, IMS).
  • 1985 Springer Series in Physical Environment (Berlin, New York).
  • 1988 CATENA: an interdisciplinary journal of soil science, hydrology, geomorphology, geoecology and landscape evolution (Braunschweig).
  • 1992 GAIA: Ecological Perspectives in Sciences, Humanities and Economics (Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg).
  • 1993 Nature, Sciences, Sociétés: Revue de l’Association NSS, avec le soutien du CNRS (CEMAGREF et Ministère de l’Environment, France).
  • 1994 Pirineos: Revista de Ecologia de Montana (Jacca, Zaragoza).
  • 1996 Geojournal: An International Journal on Human Geography and Environmental Sciences. Kluwer Academic Publ. (Dordrecht, London).
  • 1999 Regional Environmental Change (Spinger, Berlin).

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Bibliographical references

  • Grosjean G. 1991: 100 Jahre Geographisches Institut der Universität Bern 1886 – 1986. Jahrbuch der Geographischen Gesellschaft von Bern, Bd. 56:125–129.
  • Stuber M. und Kraut S. 1995: Der Marcel Benoist-Preis 1920 – 1995. Die Geschichte des eidgenössischen Wissenschaftspreises. Herausgeber: Fondation Marcel Benoist, Bern:131, 132, 134–136, 230.
  • Hurni H., Kienholz H., Wanner H. und Wiesmann U. 1996: Umwelt, Mensch, Gebirge. Festschrift Bruno Messerli. Jahrbuch der Geographischen Gesellschaft Bern, Bd. 59: 280 p.
  • Wanner H., Hurni H., Kienholz H. 1997: Bruno Messerli als Mensch, Forscher und Lehrer. Zur Emeritierung eines anerkannten  akademischen Wegbereiters. Unipress intern, Febr. 1997:1–4.
  • Schweizerischer Nationalfonds, Forschungsmagazin 2000: Schweizer an der Spitze. Bruno Messerli präsidiert die Internationale Geographische Union. Horizonte Nr. 44: 19.
  • Klötzli F., Stadelmann F., Klaus G. 2008: Prof. em. Dr. Bruno Messerli – Der Druck auf die Bergregionen wird immer grösser. Vierteljahresschrift der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Zürich. Jahrgang 153, Heft 1/2: 38–42.
  • Visions, Magazine des Clients de Vigier, 2011: L’eau – la plus précieuse des matières premières. (www.creabeton-materiaux.ch):10–13.
  • Universität Innsbruck 2011: Gebirge als einzigartiges Beobachtungs- und Experimentierfeld . Der Geograf Bruno Messerli im Interview. Magazin für Wissenschaft und Forschung der Universität, H. 1:22–24.
  • Borsdorf  A., Coy M., Stötter J. 2011: Bruno Messerli, Geograph. Ehrendoktor der Universität Innsbruck. Innsbrucker Geographische Gesellschaft. Jahresbericht 2008 – 2010:223–229.
  • Messerli P., Rey L. 2011: 125 Jahre Geographie an der Universität Bern. Die Welt in Bern – Bern in der Welt. Jahrbuch der Geographischen Gesellschaft Bern, Bd. 63:36–39.

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