Van Leckwijck, William

views updated


(b. Antwerp, Belgium, 16 November 1902; d. Wilryck, Belgium, 19 June 1975)


Van Leckwijck, a highly skilled and highly cultivated gentleman in the Flemish style, dedicated himself to geology for more than fifty years. At the beginning of World War I, he went with his family to England, where he completed grammar school and studied at the Clifton College in Bristol. In 1926 he graduated in mining engineering at the University of Liège in Belgium, following which he devoted himself to geological field studies, especially in coal geology, in Canada, England, and Scotland.

Between 1930 and 1936 Van Leckwijck finished a geological map of the eastern part of the Northern Atlas, and before 1940 he had completed several geological investigations in Greece—on Crete, Chios, and Lesbos (minerals); in Bulgaria (iron and manganese); in Finland (iron); in France and Italy (asbestos); and in Tunisia (lignite fields, iron, phosphorus, and lead). During the war (1940–1946) Van Leckwijck was involved with the Société Ougrée Maribaye, a Belgian company doing mineral research in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. In the same period he studied paleontology at the University of Liège.

After the war Van Leckwijck became director of the Association pour l’Étude de la Paléontologie et Stratigraphie Houillère/Vereniging voor de Studie van de Paleontologie en de Stratigrafie van de Steenkoolformaties, a kind of advisory board on coal resources in Belgium. In 1964, at the age of sixty-two, he succeeded Theo Sorgenfrei of Denmark as secretary-general of the International Union of Geological Sciences. During his term (1964–1968) the International Geological Correlation Program was developed in cooperation with UNESCO. Also in 1964 Van Leckwijck became professor of paleontology at the Catholic University of Louvain, where he developed a laboratory of micro-paleontology.

Van Leckwijck published almost 150 papers on studies conducted in Africa and Europe. He was honored by governments and learned societies all over the world. In 1958 he was elected to the Royal Belgian Academy of Sciences, Literature, and Arts. He was also a member of the Permanent Commission for the History of Sciences, the National Council of Scientific Unions, the Subcommission for Geodynamic Projects, and the National Commission of Geological Sciences.

In 1952 Van Leckwijck was named an officer of the Ordre du Oeissam Aiaoeit in Morocco. In 1956 he was awarded the Prijs Baron van Ertborn of the Académie Royale de Belgique: in 1964, the Water-schoot van der Gracht Medal of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Geologie en Mynbouw; in 1968, the Leopold von Buch Medal of the Deutsche Geologische Gesellschaft; and in 1969, the Memorial Medal for the Centenary of the Hungarian Geological Institute. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa (1970) and the University of Southampton in England (1972). He also held honorary membership in the Académie Lorraine des Sciences and the Geological Society of Sweden.

Van Leckwijck was fluent in Flemish, French, English, Spanish, German, and Arabic (he was an authority on the Koran). He was, moreover, an excellent violinist. He had a quiet and gentle sense of humor; for instance, during fieldwork in North Africa, he used his resemblance to the French movie star Jean Gabin to satisfy fans with autographs. In 1974 he married Rolande Soetens.

Van Leckwijck was above all a geologist rather than a mining engineer. Interpretation problems and the correct geometry of sedimentary layers having economical value led to his interest in the entire stratigraphical column, from the Lower Paleozoic to the Quaternary. He therefore turned his attention to paleontology and sedimentology, a new tool in development during his earlier career. His work on cyclic sedimentation as a tool for long-distance correlations within the Upper Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) strata was particularly remarkable.

Van Leckwijck was not only a highly skilled interpreter of geological features but also a keen observer. He was the first to describe the occurrence of dissolution phenomena at the Visean-Namurian (Mississippian-Pennsylvanian) boundary beds, which resulted in the presence of an important cave network containing remobilized mineralizations or brines at high temperatures (100° C at a depth of about 2,000 m). Today these hot brines are used for geothermal purposes, and if positive closed structures occur, the cavities, filled artificially with gaseous hydrocarbons, play the role of a reservoir.


A bibliography of Leckwijck’s writings follows an obituary in Koninklijke Akademie voor Wetenschappen, Lettered en Schone Kunsten van België, Jaarboek 1975. They include “Le Canada et ses richesses minérales,” in Revue universelle des mines, 7th ser., 18, no. 5 (1928), 208–225; “Les houillères britanniques, “in La documentation industrielle (1930), no. 13, 109–110, and no. 14, 121–122; “Sur la géologie et les gisements de lignite de la plaine de Guercif (Maroc oriental),” in Publications du VIIe Congrès international des mines, métallurgie, et géologie appliquée, section de géologie appliquée, I (Paris, 1935), 289–299, with J. Mançais; “Sur des phénomènes de dissolution au contact des terrains viséens et namuriens dans la région de Samson,” in Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique, 65 (1941), B41–B46; “Les gisements de fluorine, belges et français, du bord méridional du synclinorium de Dinant,” ibid., B64–B75, with L. Calembert; “Les gisements belges de fluorine et leur intérêt industriel, in Revue universelle des mines, 8th ser., 18, no. 2 (1942), 41–43; “Découverte d’une faune namurienne dans la vallée de la Berwinne,” in Bulletin de l’Académie royale de Belgique, classe des sciences, 5th ser., 28, no. 12 (1942), 889–903, with C. Ancion; “Sur l’âge famennien des grès du Val Dieu et l’existence d’une lacune stratigraphique entre Namurien et Famennien dans la vallée de la Berwinne,” ibid., 29, nos. 4–6 (1943), 488–492, with C. Ancion and G. Ubaghs; “Les gisements de fluorine des Ardennes françaises et beiges,” in Comptes rendus de la Société géologique de France (1946), no. 13, 250–251, with L. Calembert; “Phénomènes pseudotectoniques, la ptupart d’origine périglaciaire, dans les dépôts sablo-graveteux dits ‘Onx’ et les terrasses fluviales de la région liégeoise,” in Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique, 73 (1949), M3–M78, with P. Macar (there is a 3-page English summary).

“Sur la sédimentation dans le terrain houiller de la Campine belge á l’époque du Westphalien B inférieur (zone d’Asch),” in Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique, 72 (1949), B439–B468; “Le fer. Géologie des gites minéraux marocains (zone française du Maroc,” in Notes et mémoires du Service géologique du Maroc, no. 87 (1952), 103–132, with J. Agard and J. Destombes; “Sur un gisement de manganèse d’âge quaternaire au N de la vallée du Dadès entre Ouarzazate et Skoura (Anti-Atlas),” ibid., no. 122 (1954), 95–100, with R. Van Tassel; “Travaux publiés en Belgique depuis 1948 sur des questions de sédimentologie,” in Revue de l’Institut français du pétrole, 10 (1955), supp., 13–21; “Contribution á la stratigraphie des terrains ordoviciens et gothlandiens de l’anticlinorium de Khouribga-Oulmes (Maroc central),” in Notes et mémoires du Service géologique de Maroc, no. 123 (1955), 9–44, with G. Suter, G. Termier, and H. Termier; “Découverte d’une faune strunienne au toit de la couche d’oligiste oolithique dite famennienne de Couthuin (bord nord du synclinal de Namur),” in Bulletin de l’Académie royale de Belgique, classe des sciences, 5th ser., 42, no. 4 (1956), 506–514, with C. Ancion and F. Demanet.

“Problèmes relatifs á la datation de puissantes séries complexes, formées uniquement de roches volcaniques ou continentales; exemple du Mexique central,” in Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique, 80 (1957), B175–B189; “Belgique, Carbonifère supérieur: Terrain houiller, namurien, westphalien et premien,” Lexique stratigraphique international, vol. Europe, fasc. 4–11 (Paris, 1957); “Le Strunien de la vallée de la Méhaigne,” in Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique, 81 (1958), B507–B520; Stratigraphie et paléontologie du gisement de la concession Grande et Petite Bacnure, Centre National de Géologic Houillère (Brussels)(1969), document no, I, with B. M. Aderca. C Ancion, A. Pastiels, and Y. Willière; “Les structures périglaciaires antérieures au Wurm en Belgique . . .,” in Biuletyn peryglacjalny (1960), no. 9, 47–59; Étude géologique du bassin houiller de Liège. La concession Gosson-Kessales. Notes sur la patéontologie et la stratigraphie du Westphalien au nord de la faille St.-Gilles, Centre National de Géologie Houillère (Brussels) (1961), document no. 5, with L. Lambrecht, C. Ancion, A. Pastiels, and Y. Willière; “Vertical and Lateral Variations in the Lithology and the Fauna of the Petit Buisson Marine Band in the Borinage Coalfield, Southern Belgium,” in Paläontologische Zeitschrift, issue honoring H. Schmidt (1962), 140–153, with C. H. Chesaux; “Étude de cyclycité dans la sédimentation namurienne et accessotrement westphaJienne,” 6C Congrès international de sédimentologie de Belgique et Pays-Bas, Livret guide excursions E/F, pt. 2 (1963); “Le développement stralinomique du Namurien A et B en Belgique méridionale,” in Comptes rendus du Ve Congrès de stratigraphie et de géologie carbonifère, I (Paris, 1964), 415–430, with K. Fiege.

Études paléontologiques, stratigraphiques et tectoniques dans le Westphalien B du massif dit des Dressants d’Anderlues du district de Charleroi, Centre National de Géologie Houillère (Brussels) (1965), publication no. 10, with B. M. Aderca et al.,; “Cyclic Sedimentation in the Mars-denian Stage (Namurian B) of Southern Belgium,” in Papers Published by the 7th International Sedimentological Congress (Reading, 1967), with K. Fiege; “Les minéraux argileux et teurs altérations dans le Namurien infériuer de Belgique (Syndical de Namur),” in Annales de la Société géologique de Belgique, 90 (1967), B329–B380, with J. Thorez (with English summary); “Ton-Mergel-KalkZykJen im südbelgischen Namur (Clay-Marl-Limestone Cycles in the Namurian of Southern Belgium),” in Sedimentary Geology, 2, no. 4 (1968), 321–365, with K. Fiege; and “Précisions sur la succession stratigraphique du Mesozoïque dans le Massif Terni-Masgout (Maroc oriental),” in Notes et mémoires du Service géologique du Maroc, no. 213 (1969), 11–13, with M. Benzaquen, C. Hamel, and J. Marçais.

J. P. C. O. Bouckaert

About this article

Van Leckwijck, William

Updated About content Print Article