Royal honours for Johan van den Burgh

Burgemeester Henny van Kooten met Johan en Jenny van den Burgh
Johan and Jenny van den Burgh with mayor Henny van Kooten

Today, at the age of 83, Johan van der Burgh was honoured with the appointment of Knight of the Order of Oranje-Nassau. Since 1985, he has voluntarily managed the Paleobotanical collection and assisted in research and teaching in the departments of Earth Sciences and Physical Geography.

During his doctoral studies in biology at Utrecht University, it became clear that Johan had a scientific career ambition in the field of Palaeobotany, the study of the development of the plant world during more than 400 million years of earth history. After his graduation in 1963, he was appointed as a scientific assistant at the new Laboratory for Palaeobotany and Palynology of the former Faculty of Biology. In addition to teaching and research duties, he was given the task of managing the Laboratory's extensive collection of plant fossils. From the 1960s onwards he built up and curated a collection of fossil plants at Utrecht University.

After 1985 Johan continued to work at Utrecht University on a voluntary basis. He worked intensively on the education of biology and geology students, the organisation of excursions abroad and the supervision of research by students and PhD candidates. In this way, he contributed to the education of thousands of students. He has supported education and research at Utrecht University for the past 37 years by expanding and managing the collection. He also built up a museum collection in the Botanical Gardens that makes the evolution of plants accessible to a broad public in a fun way.

With the advent of computers, Johan transferred all his collection files from a paper chart system to a digital collection database. As a result, the Palaeobotanical collection was one of the few collections that was very well digitally documented. Throughout the years, his multifaceted efforts have been instrumental in strengthening the national and international position of the Utrecht Palaeobotanical Research Group.

This year Johan will retire at the age of 83; to his joy, a good successor has been found to take over the management of the collections.