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In Memoriam Alfred Becker

Colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) mourn the death of Alfred Becker.
Alfred Becker

 Dr. habil. Alfred Becker

*12.12.1934 - †18.8.2010

Die Trauerfeier findet am
03.09.2010 um 11.30 Uhr im Hause der
Evangelischen Kirchengemeinde
Heilig Kreuz - Passion,
Zossener Straße 65
in 10961 Berlin statt.


A scientist of heart and soul is no longer with us. Alfred Becker was one of the first scientists to join PIK, shaping in particular the direction of hydrological research at the institute. Until his very last days, he visited the institute about once per week, pursuing various personal projects.

Alfred Becker was born in Magdeburg in 1934. He belonged to the “Dresden School” in Hydrology which had international recognition. He was co-author of a classic hydrology textbook (“Angewandte Hydrologie”) is still widely used at German Universities. His last, unfinished work was a historical treatise of water management modelling in East Germany.

Alfred Becker has advanced the integrative approach in hydrology substantially, both at the Potsdam Institute, but also on the international scene. His passion concerned the Elbe catchment in Germany and the Czech Republic – but he also worked in mountain catchments worldwide. To him, integrative research meant considering water not just as a topic of hydrology, but to include socio-economic and ecological aspects, in particular aspects connected with climate change.

During the 1990s, Alfred Becker was mostly active internationally, at the UNESCO in Paris and later as deputy chair of the international research programme Biospheric Aspects of the Hydrological Cycle (BAHC). He also contributed to several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In 2000, the German ministry for education and research (BMBF) launched the most ambitious project ever about the possible impact of climate change on environment and society in the Elbe catchment, the GLOWA-Elbe project. Alfred Becker was the initiator of this consortium of about 20 institutes and 100 collaborators and remained its director well beyond his retirement.

A characteristic of Alfred Becker was that he wanted to embark on new topics even near the end of his career. He was a notorious optimist, failure just did not appear as a possible scenario for him. Where others weighed different options, he had already taken the initiative. And he could engage and involve people - in a charming but also a firm and persistent way.

We would have liked to share with him more of the outcomes of these activities, of which he laid the foundations. Our grateful memory of him will be with us for a long time to come.


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