December 2009



Professor Zdzisław Kaczmarek (1928-2008)


Professor Zdzisław Kaczmarek, a world-renowned Polish hydrologist and water resources scientist, died in Warsaw, Poland, on 18 February 2008 at the age 79.

From 1963 to 1966 and 1976 to 1980, he was Director of the National Hydrological and Meteorological Service and the Permanent Representative (PR) of Poland with WMO. In this capacity, in 1964, he hosted in Warsaw the second session of the WMO Commission for Hydrometeorology during which he was elected Vice-President of the Commission and Chairman of the working group charged with drafting the first edition of the WMO Guide to Hydrological Practices and the Relevant Technical Regulations. During his terms as PR of Poland and Vice-President of the Commission, Professor Kaczmarek was among those who advocated for the inclusion of the promotion of operational hydrology among the purposes of WMO.

Professor Kaczmarek was born on 7 August 1928 in Poznań in western Poland. He attended a clandestine secondary school during World War II in occupied Poland. In 1946, he entered the Warsaw University of Technology from which he graduated in 1951 with a mater's degree in science and engineering with a specialization in hydrology and water management. In 1958, he obtained a DSc from Warsaw University of Technology with a thesis on efficiency in estimating floods for a given period. His PhD dissertation in 1961 at the Gdańsk University of Technology dealt with management of water storage systems.

His first job in 1947 was as a junior scientific assistant with Warsaw University of Technology, where he undertook some teaching and research. He continued career at the University as Associate Professor (1961), Extraordinary Professor (1963), Full Professor (1971) and Head of the Institute of Environmental Engineering until 1976. His main scientific interest was in hydrology and water resources. This led him to research into statistics and, in particular, the application of the probability theory to water resources management. A closely related field was stochastic storage theory and its application in the design and operation of water reservoirs. His handbook Statistical Methods in Hydrology and Meteorology published (in Polish) in 1970, and translated and printed in the United States of America in 1977, is still widely used by university students and professionals.

In parallel to teaching and theoretical research, Professor Kaczmarek had developed interests in the practical problems of hydrology and water management. Pursuing these interests, he joined the State Hydrological and Meteorological Institute (the National Hydrological and Meteorological Service) on a part-time basis in 1956, and was made chief of the Institute’s division for surface water hydrology. In the course of time he became Deputy-Director and eventually Director.

Recognizing his scientific achievements and competence in hydrology and water resources, the General Assembly of the Polish Academy of Sciences, constitutionally the highest scientific institution in the country, elected Professor Kaczmarek a Correspondent Member (1969) and Ordinary Member (1980).

Professor Kaczmarek’s superlative competence in the field of hydrology and water resources ensured that he was in great demand for various scientific committees and State offices. He served, among others, as member and President of the Water Resources Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Chairman of the National Council for Environmental Protection and President of the Committee “Poland 2000”. From 1972 to 1974, he was Under-Secretary of State and First Deputy Minister of Science, Higher Education and Technology.  At that time, Professor Kaczmarek’s responsibilities turned towards the science policy matters and decision-making. The culmination of this career was to serve from 1981 to 1988 as Scientific Secretary of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the country’s most responsible executive position in science. He resigned on reaching his sixtieth birthday, wishing to devote more of his time to research work as head of Water Resources Division at the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Professor Kaczmarek also had a distinguished record of involvement in international activities. The first major event at which he made presentation was Darcy Symposium organized by the (then) International Association of Scientific Hydrology in Dijon, France, in 1956.  In the course of time, he was engaged as expert and/or consultant in activities of the WMO Commission for Hydrometeorology (renamed later to the Commission for Hydrology); the International Hydrological Decade and the International Hydrological Programme of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction of the United Nations; the First Water Conference of United Nations Environment Programme; the First and Second World Climate Conferences; and work of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, the International Council of Scientific Unions and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. From 1974 to 1976 and 1989 to 1991, respectively, he worked with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis as Head of Water Programme and Leader of Water Resources Project. Professor Kaczmarek’s outstanding contribution to, and merits for, the international hydrology were recognized in 1990 by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences when he was awarded their International Hydrology Prize. This award reflected the high regard that Professor Kaczmarek enjoyed among the international community of both hydrologists and water resources engineers.

Professor Kaczmarek retired in 1998 on his seventieth birthday but continued working with the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences on a part-time basis executing projects on interaction of water resources and climate within the framework of the European Union’s environmental programmes.

All who were privileged to work with Professor Zdzisław Kaczmarek pay tribute to his wisdom, achievements and gentleness. He will remain alive in the memory of his many students, friends and collaborators.

Professor Kaczmarek was interviewed for WMO Bulletin July 1989, Volume 38(3).

Jerzy Pruchnicki



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