IN MEMORIAM. Prof. Mateo Gutiérrez-Elorza
Prof. Mateo Gutiérrez-Elorza died last September 9, in Zaragoza, Spain. A sad and curious coincidence, just the day after the closure of the 16th National Meeting on Geomorphology, held in that same city. During the opening ceremony of the meeting, the President of the Sociedad Española de Geomorfología, Dr. Gloria Desir, mentioned Mateo’s crucial and leading role in the development of Geomorphology in Spain, and his significant international contributions, and so did the speakers of the opening and closing lectures. Mateo’s scientific category and friendly character made him a generally respected and loved colleague, both in Spain and internationally. Not surprisingly, because of the above-mentioned coincidence, his family, colleagues and friends have already received numerous expressions of condolence, from different corners of Spain and the world.
Born in Burgos, N Spain, in 1941, Mateo got his BSc (1963) and PhD (1969) in Geology at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid. Between 1970 and 1977, he lectured at the Universidad Complutense and the Colegio Universitario de Teruel. He became Lecturer at the Universidad de Zaragoza in 1977 and Full Professor in 1980.
He was an enthusiastic researcher, interested in a wide spectrum of geomorphological topics, and made significant contributions in several of them, often of an innovative character. To mention a few: Periglacial environments (Gutiérrez and Peña, 1976, 1981; Gutiérrez and Gutiérrez, 2014b). Geoarchaeology, with contributions (Burillo et al., 1981, 1984, 1985) that were pioneer in Spain. Karst, especially his work on poljes (Gutiérrez et al., 1983; Gracia et al., 1996, 2001, 2002) and doline fields in gypsum and limestone terrains (Gutiérrez and Peña, 1979 a, 1979 b; Gutiérrez et al., 1985, 2007; Benito and Gutiérrez, 1988; Gutiérrez and Gutiérrez, 1998; Galve et al., 2009). Netectonics (Capote et al., 1981; Gutiérrez et al., 2008). Analysis of the geomorphic effects of extreme hydrological events (Gutiérrez et al., 1998b, 2003). Geomorphological cycles related to climate oscillations (Gutiérrez and Peña, 1998; Harvey and Gutiérrez-Elorza, 2005). Talus flatirons (Gutiérrez Elorza and Sesé Martínez, 2001; Gutiérrez et al., 1998a, 2006, 2010), yardangs (Gutiérrez et al., 2005; Gutiérrez and Gutiérrez, 2014a). Quantification of erosion in badlands and other arid environments in the Ebro valley, using different field techniques (Gutiérrez et al., 1988, 1997; Sancho et al., 1991; Desir et al., 1995; Sirvent et al., 1997). He presented an excellent synthesis on this topic during his entry lecture at the Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas, Químicas y Naturales de Zaragoza (Gutiérrez-Elorza, 1998).
He also made important contributions of a more general, theoretical character. Worthy of mention are those on the history of Geomorphology in Spain (Gutiérrez-Elorza, 1990) and the world (Gutiérrez-Elorza and Pérez-González, 1992), as well as his books (Spanish and English versions) Climatic Geomorphology (2001 and 2005) and Geomorphology (2008 and 2012). Also, the two volumes edited on Landscapes and landforms of Spain (Gutiérrez and Gutiérrez, Eds., 2014) and Landforms of the world. An illustrated guide (Gutiérrez and Gutiérrez, 2016). The latter work contains an excellent compendium of photographs, a thematic catalogue of landforms. They all are examples of Mateo’s wide knowledge and interest on all aspects of Geomorphology. Reflection of this interest are his numerous PhD students, working in different research institutions of Spain, a number of which are internationally recognised scientists.
He was an active participant in several international events (organised by the International Geographical Union and the International Association of Geomorphologists) leading to the important transformation experienced by Geomorphology, both internationally and in Spain during the nineteen eighties. His impulse was behind the considerable expansion of geomorphological research in Spain in the later part of last century. Following the International Conferences on Geomorphology of Manchester (1985) and Frankfurt (1989), he was the leading force for the organisation of the I Reunión Nacional de Geomorfología (Teruel, Spain, 1990), during which he was elected first President of the Sociedad Española de Geomorfología (SEG). Over 30 years later, the SEG is active and strong, showing the success of Mateo’s original idea of harmoniously integrating geographers and geologists into the common task of fostering this field of the Earth Sciences.
Special mention must be made to the organization of the 6th International Conference on Geomorphology, held in Zaragoza in 2005. It was a very successful event, with 861 participants from 61 countries. Twenty field trips were organised, all of them with very complete field guides, and a congress for young geomorphologists, including an excursion, took place as well. The great effort this complex event required, and its success, was possible thanks to the work of a handful of people, mostly young geomorphologists, inspired and enthusiastically led by Mateo.
Many of us remember him at his office, surrounded by books and offprints trying to understand the processes and factors that determine the evolution of landforms. He was a passionate scientist, a tireless reader full of questions for which he sought answers. We will always remember his relentless interest to communicate his passion and knowledge about landforms.
Last, but surely not least, he was a lovable person. He had a friendly, amusing character, especially when he was in the field. He enjoyed being with friends, be it in the field or at the office, discussing different (scientific and other) topics, and generously sharing data, knowledge and questions. In the last few years, deterioration of his health forced him to retire from the front geomorphological line, but he has left behind a notable scientific heritage and a large number of friends who will miss his presence, closeness and good humour. We owe him very much and will always remember him as a great scientist, decisive for the development of Geomorphology in Spain.
Antonio Cendrero, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander
José María García-Ruiz, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, CSIC, Zaragoza