Edelman, Cornelis Hendrik

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(b. Rotterdam, Netherlands, 29 January 1903; d. Wageningen. Netherlands, 15 May 1964)

soil science.

The son of a schoolteacher, Edelman began studying geology and mining at the Technological University of Delft in 1919 and graduated in 1924. When one of his professors, Hendrik A. Brouwer, was appointed to the chair of geology at the University of Amsterdam in 1929, Edelman followed him there. Edelman was married twice: to Johanna Van Werkhoven, with whom he had six children, and to Alida W. Veam, a historical geographer.

Edelman was a member of the Royal Netherlands Geological and Mining Society, and the International Soil Science Society. He was rector magnificus of the State Agricultural University at Wageningen in 1946 and 1947. In 1958 he was elected to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences; he was also a Corresponding member of the French Academy of Agronomy, He received an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Ghent and was made a knight (Lion) of the Netherlands.

While at Amsterdam, Edelman established and operated the first consulting laboratory for sedimentary petrology, in which he was assisted by D. J. Doeglas. This was the beginning of extensive sedimentological investigations conducted for Royal Dutch Shell, to aid in oil exploration, a function later taken over by the corporation’s research department.

In the following years the laboratory carried out many investigations of this kind on the sedimentary petrology of the Netherlands Delta area for the Ministry of Transport and Water Management, as a preparation for the construction of dikes and polders. During this period Edelman completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of Amsterdam (“Petrological Provinces of the Netherlands Quaternary,” 1933). His improved method for the analysis of heavy minerals in sediments and soils is still generally used, with only minor modifications.

In 1933 Edelman was appointed to the chair of geology, mineralogy, petrography, and agrogeology (later renamed regional soil science) at the State Agricultural University of Wageningen, a post he held until his death. His investigations on sedimentary petrology continued, and he began research on the clay minerals in soils. His structural model of montmorillonite was considered the best approximation until it was superseded by a more exact method after 1945, and his work on halloysite was of fundamental interest. After 1942 he improved the nineteenth-century discipline of agrogeology by applying it to modern soil survey, with strong emphasis on a physiographic approach. This resulted in the establishment, in July 1945, of the Stichting voor Bodemkartering (Soil Survey Institute). the official national institution for soil and landscape surveys and land evaluation, of which he was director until 1955. Throughout the same period, beginning in 1934, Edelman was involved in soil science research in the Netherlands East Indies(now Indonesia).

Immediately after World War II Edelman established many international contacts, in particular with the U.S. Soil survey and its head, Charles E.Kellogg. This cooperation led to the use of international standards of soil classification in the Netherlands soil survey. On his first mission for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (1947), Edelman was a member of an international commission to study problems of food and agriculture in Poland. He was frequently a consultant to that organization. These and other contacts led to the reactivation of the International Soil Science Society and to its fourth congress at Amsterdam in 1950.

Within the framework of FAO, as well as bilateral programs between the Netherlands and other countries, Edelman made great contributions to cooperation on development projects with Third World nations. He helped to establish three institutes designed for this purpose: the International Training Center for Aerial Survey (ITC) at Delft (now the International Agriculture Center and the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement, both at Wageningen.

Edelman’s scientific activities in the postwar period were especially concerned with (1) physiographic soil surveys with land evaluation and land use planning, (2) late Pleistocene periglacial phenomena and processes, (3) fluvial, estuarine, and marine sedimentation and marine transgressions, and (4) the influence of man on the genesis and development of soils, including cooperation with archaeologists and historical geographers. Often with students and former students he made major contributions to these fields that opened up vistas for further scientific developments.

Edelman was an inspiring and stimulating teacher who supervised many master’s and doctoral students in the fields of soil survey and land evaluation. In their careers most of them used and developed Edelman’s methods and theories in soil surveys and other research in the Netherlands and abroad, particularly in developing countries. His influence is still very strong in soil survey and land evaluation.


1. Original Works. Edelman’s writings include “Petrologische provincies in het Nederlandsche Kwartair” (Ph.D.diss., Amsterdam, 1933):“On the Crystal Structure of Montmorillonite and Halloysite,” in Zeitschrift fiir Kristallographie, 102 (1940), 417–431, written with J.C.L. Favejee;Studiësn over de bodemkunde van Nederlandsch Indië (Wageningen, 1941; 2nd ed., 1947); Soils of the Netherlans. J. Verwey. trans. (Amsterdam. 1950); “Soils,” in Soil Science, 74 (1952), 15–20: “De subatlantische transgressie langs de Nederlandse kust,” in Geologie en mijnbouw, 15 (1953), 351–364:“Sedimentology of the Rhine and Meuse Delta as an Example of the Sedimentology of the Carboniferous,” in Gedenkboek H.A. Browser (Amsterdam, 1956). 1–12; “Pleistozengeologische Ergebnisse der Bodenkartierung in den Niederlanden.” in Geologisches Jahrbuch (Hannover, 1958), 639–684, written with G.C.Maarleved;and Applications of Soil Survey in Land Development in Europe, publication 12 of the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement (Wageningen, 1963).

II. Secondary Literature. An obituary of Edelman written by A.P.A. Vink can be found in Geologische Rundschau, 54, no. 2 (1964), 1320–1322.

A. P. A. Vink