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Annie V J Dhondt, 1942-2006

Annie Dhondt was born in Gent on 4 January 1942, and died in Brussels on 1 September 2006, after a long illness.

Annie gained her License in Zoology from the Rijksuniverseteit, Gent, in 1965, and her doctorate from that university in 1970. Her association with the Koninklijk Belgisch Institut voor Naturwetenschappen (Institut royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique) in Brussels began in 1968, and led to her appointment as Head of Fossil Invertebrates in 1990, a post she held until her death. Her devotion to the Institute and to the care of the collections was exemplary. But it did not prevent her from pursuing a distinguished international career as a scientist in her special field - the taxonomy and evolution of Cretaceous bivalve molluscs, especially the pectens and their allies, and the all-important inoceramids. Her publication list runs to more than 60 monographs and articles, with collaborators from England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the former Soviet Union, the United States, Peru, Ecuador and elsewhere.

Her contribution to geology included the coordination of a series of international projects, the most significant of which was the outstandingly successful 1995 International Symposium on Cretaceous Stage Boundaries, held at the Institute in Brussels. Annie was a co-editor of the symposium proceedings, and was also the chief editor of the Institute Bulletin between 1986 and 2006. She served as secretary and vice-chair of the Subcommission on Cretaceous Stage Boundaries between 1996 and 2004, one of her many services to the international community of Cretaceous workers. Her support for colleagues in the former Soviet Union was substantial and generous. It was recognised in 1999 by the award of the Medal of Peter the Great for her ‘help in the development of science and the economy of Russia’ by the Moscow International Academy of Natural Sciences.

Annie won a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Evolutionary and Systematic Biology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC in 1972-3. Her sponsor was Erle Kauffman of that institution, and she found herself in the company of Heinz Kollmann from Vienna, Jiri Krij from Prague, Jake Hancock and me on a mammoth tour of the Cretaceous of the US western interior, led by Erle that both strengthened and tested friendships. It had a major influence on her development as a scientist, as it did with Jake and me, and led to our lasting friendship. Had she not chosen a scientific career, there is no doubt that others would have opened. She was a quite extraordinary linguist, speaking, as I recall, at least 14 languages, not merely Indo-European and Slavic ones, but central African ones too. An abiding memory is watching and listening to her facilitate, as simultaneous translator, a complex geological conversation between a Russian and a German colleague without hesitation, and throwing in a summary for linguistically challenged Anglo-Saxons in the audience.

But most of all, I and other members of our invisible Cretaceous College will cherish the memory of a friend and colleague of great thoughtfulness, kindness, and generosity.

Jim Kennedy, with thanks to Eric Simon, Etienne Steurbaut, Adriano Vandersypen and John Jagt.