We grieve for Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Manfred Frühauf

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Manfred Frühauf

On  3  November 2019,  our colleague  and friend Professor Manfred Frühauf passed away, much too early at the age of only 69 years.


He was born in Klieken, Anhalt as the first child to a family of farmers. From 1957 to 1961, he attended a primary school there and spent his childhood in a rural environment. His enthusiasm for sport and his outstanding achievements in athletics led him to the children's and youth sports school in Halle in 1966, which he finished in 1970.
This is when he began his undergraduate studies in geography at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. He became increasingly interested in various aspects of physical geography, which led him to specialize in the fields of geomorphology and soil geography. Eventually, he dedicated his doctoral and later habilitation dissertations to these subjects. His dissertations were entitled "Landscape ecological studies on soil and substrate in the Eastern Harz Foreland and Lower Harz" (1981) and “Contributions to lithology, genesis of spatial distribution and local significance of the silt rich sediment elements of the periglacial loose material blankets in the low mountain ranges - illustrated by the example of the Harz Mountains (GDR part)" (1987), respectively.
The times after his habilitation defense in 1987 marked a very challenging and decisive period for his life and career. During a four-month stay as a visiting scholar at the Lomonosov State University in Moscow, Manfred Frühauf developed a special interest in the problems of anthropogenic environmental change, particularly in the context of regional geography in Russia. His academic achievements from this period also show how he overcame the challenges of the reunification of Germany with great commitment and determination. Despite the difficulties that came with the structural changes of the time, as early as in 1991, he managed to obtain funding for projects from prestigious research foundations such the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). These achievements were a good opportunity for further scientific development, but Manfred Frühauf also ensured that these projects likewise enabled ambitious young graduates to gain further scientific qualifications and an academic career under the new socio-political conditions.
In 1993, he was appointed Professor of Geoecology at the Institute of Geography at Martin Luther University. The Department of Geoecology, which was first established under the leadership of Professor Frühauf, thanks to its scientific contributions has become well known in Germany and worldwide and continues to be recognized until now. He was always relentless and tireless in working on himself, and the new freedom to travel and the evolving academic freedom also created new opportunities for his scientific development. Manfred Frühauf expanded his research cooperation particularly with Russian colleagues. About 10 years later, his collaboration with V.V. Rudski at Altai State University, Barnaul, became very decisive in taking our collaboration at the Martin Luther University with the colleagues in Russia to a new level.
Manfred Frühauf was a dedicated teacher in physical geography and geoecology. Particularly, his numerous excursions to foreign countries were a highlight for the students. He has inspired several generations of students to take interest in his subject leaving a lasting impression on them. The creation of career perspectives for his students and young scientists has always been a special concern of Manfred Frühauf. In fact, it can be said that all of his students made a very good career, whether in science or beyond. His impact, in terms of raising a generation of scientists in the field, is of course immense. About 30 young academics have successfully completed their doctorates under his supervision and five of the group's academic staff have defended their habilitation degrees.
From a scientific point of view, during the last 10 years Manfred Frühauf has increasingly concentrated his work on the problems of landscape degradation caused by climate change and land use. The Eurasian steppe belt has become his spatial focus. Here he succeeded in raising funds for two large international collaborative projects from the Volkswagen Foundation and the BMBF. He headed the KULUNDA project, in which more than 30 scientists from 16 German and Russian universities, research institutes and companies worked together. He was so dedicated to the research project that in order to bring it to a successful closure, in 2016 he postponed the official end of his professional career by another two years.
The KULUNDA project, being embedded into the FONA activities of the BMBF, was one of the 10 international and interdisciplinary projects dealing with sustainable land use. And we can proudly say that the achievements obtained within the KULUNDA project have been very well received by the funding agency and moreover by the recipients and colleagues in the region. The KULUNDA project proved best practices for basic and applied research. Stakeholders have been extraordinarily involved in the project development. This was only possible by the dedicated and enthusiastic leadership of Manfred Frühauf. While the project demonstrated a cutting-edge example of research in physical geography and geoecology, the geographer Manfred Frühauf also developed as an excellent agricultural scientist. For his outstanding research achievements, as well as teaching contributions together with Russian Universities, he was awarded with three honorary doctorates by the Universities of Barnaul, Ufa and Smolensk.
His great passion for the collaboration between German and Russian scientists was another prerequisite for the success of the KULUNDA project. Manfred Frühauf was largely the reason for why colleagues in this project were not only successful but also became friends. With that, all of his work and energy that he put into the KULUNDA project and many more other projects will without a doubt continue to live. His more than 150 publications but also his spirit that continues to live through his colleagues will make sure of it.
It is a little consolation that his book “KULUNDA: Climate Smart Agriculture” had been published just a few days before he passed away, and that he could have realized that he had brought the KULUNDA project to the very successful end.
We will honor his memory and remember him, his enthusiastic research and deep friendship.
The members of his KULUNDA team

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