2004, Gerhard Röbbelen | Germany

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Gerhard Röbbelen studied Agricultural Sciences at Göttingen and Biology at Freiburg. His doctoral thesis, under the advisorship of Prof. F. Oehlkers (Freiburg), dealt with the inheritance of induced colour mutations in Arabidopsis thaliana. In his subsequent “habilitation” work at Göttingen he studied the effects of X-rays on different cell types of the same model plant. From 1966 to 1967 he joined the famous cytogenetics lab of Prof. E. R. Sears at Columbia/Missouri. Thereafter he became responsible for the cytogenetic research of the plant breeding institute at Göttingen headed by Prof. A. Scheibe. In 1970 he succeeded Prof. Scheibe on the chair of Applied Genetics and Plant Breeding and stayed in this position till his retirement in 1994.

Although Prof. Röbbelen’s early cytogenetic research was already internationally recognized, his present reputation is undoubtedly based on his achievements in oilseed rape research and breeding. In close collaboration with breeding companies, food industry, and colleagues from neighbouring disciplines, he developed the genetic and technological basis of modern oilseed rape breeding. The tremendous increase of the oilseed rape acreage in Europe during the last 3 decades most convincingly demonstrates the great success of these endeavours.

Prof. Röbbelen also spent much energy in promoting scientific communication and strengthening the links between research and practice. He was the founding president of the German Genetics Society (1968-70) and the German Plant Breeding Society (1991-96). From 1989-92 he acted as president of the German Fat Science Society and from 1991-1994 he served on the Federal German Committee for Biological Safety. Last but not least, he was EUCARPIA president from 1986-1989. In this period fell the XII EUCARPIA Conference which was held at Göttingen and attracted more than 1200 participants from 49 countries. A decade earlier he had founded the Oil and Protein Crops Section of EUCARPIA and served as its first chairman. During many years he successfully acted as editor-in-chief of the international journal PLANT BREEDING.

Prof. Röbbelen also holds great achievements in teaching and advising students and young researchers. His great merits in this respect may best be demonstrated by the fact that 99 doctorates and 4 habilitations were finished under his scientific guidance.

After his retirement (1994) Prof. Röbbelen has been committed to various national and international high-level committees related to plant breeding research and development. In 2004 a scientific colloquium was held on the occasion of his 75th birthday at Göttingen. The meeting impressively demonstrated the broad scope and great impact of Prof. Röbbelen’s scientific achievements in applied genetics and plant breeding. Many scientists in Europe and abroad have been collaborating with him and esteem him as a knowledgeable, cooperative, and amiable colleague.

(The text has been provided by Dr. Hartwig H. Geiger, Institut für Pflanzenzüchtung, Saatgutforschung und Populationsgenetik, University of Hohenheim, Germany)