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Role Models in Nematology

To attract young scientists to the fascinating world of Nematology, we hereby present some interesting personalities as role models for future nematologists. Many nematologists know the contributions of the most important pioneers to the science but are not always aware of the impact they had on future generations nor do they know them as true persons. The short introductions will not only illustrate the contribution of these pioneers to the discipline but show them as real men or women with a broad interest and impact, also outside Nematology.

Dr. Johannes Govertus de Man (1850-1930),
a Dutch pioneer of Nematode Taxonomy

Dr. Johannes Govertus de Man, a remarkable Dutch zoologist who lived from 1850 up to 1930, devoted his life to the science of systematics on Crustacea and Nematoda. Johannes, or Jan as he was usually named, was born at Middelburg, province of Zeeland in the South West of the Netherlands, on May 2nd 1850.As a young boy already, he developed a strong interest in biology and loved to collect insects. From 1868-1873 he studied at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, where he obtained his masters degree in 1871 and his doctors degree (magna cum lauda) in 1873. From 1872 till 1883 he worked as invertebrate curator at the National Museum of Natural History at Leiden on the systematics of both the Crustacea, in particular on the Decapoda (i.e. crabs, crayfish, lobsters and shrimps), and the microscopic small roundworms or Nematoda. In 1883 Jan resigned at the museum, but continued working on Decapoda and Nematoda first at his parents’ house (1883-1893) at Middelburg and later on at his own house in Yerseke, the Netherlands (1893-1930), up to his death on January 19, 1930. Besides his important contribution to Crustacea taxonomy – he described 30 Crustacea genera and 523 new Crustacea species (including 7 Stomatopoda) – he is worldwide known in Nematology for the introduction of 8 new families, 61 new genera and 239 new species including animal parasites, plant parasites and free-living terrestrial and aquatic nematodes. He produced high quality monographs on soil, plant and freshwater nematodes. In total J.G. de Man published 181 articles and monographic papers, most of them on Crustacea and Nematoda, but also some papers on Turbellaria (free-living flatworms), Mollusca (shells) and Sipunculida (peanut worms).

During his life J.G. de Man became known not only as an excellent specialist of worldwide reputation on Decapoda but also as one of the founders and pioneers within Nematology. For both invertebrate groups he is not only known, because of the quantity of his work, but also particularly for the high quality of the descriptions often liberally illustrated with excellent drawings. In 1880, J.G. de Man introduced a formula now known as body ratios a (body length divided by maximum body width), b (body length divided by oesophageal/pharyngeal length), c ( body length divided by tail length) for measuring nematodes. The demanian formula is till today universally used in nematode taxonomy. J.G de Man can without doubt be considered as a role model for nematology and more specifically for nematode taxonomy.More inspiring information on his life and contributions to science and Nematology in particular can be found in:
– Karssen, G. (2006). Life and work of Dr. J.G. de Man, a Crustacea and Nematoda specialist. Brill Leiden, the Netherlands. 120p. (ISBN-10: 90 0414 9694, ISBN-13: 978 90 0414 969 4).
– Nematode in the picture:
with courtesy from Dr Gerrit Karssen and Dr Hans Helder

Prof. Dr. Lucien De Coninck (1909-1988),
the father of Nematology in Belgium

As a nematologist, Lucien De Coninck is best known for his contributions in morphology and systematics. He graduated in 1931 from Ghent University and went to The Netherlands where he studied free-living freshwater and terrestrial nematodes under Schuurmans Stekhoven till 1934. In 1942 during the German occupation, he published a major work on the orientation of the anterior sensory organs in nematodes, later known as De Coninck scheme. After, World War II, he became a major professor at Ghent University with many teaching duties for the next fifteen years. Lucien De Coninck was one of the founding members of a new initiative at the Ghent University in 1957, called Ganda Congo, an organisation devoted to the development of scientific studies in the then still Belgian Congo. He made several trips to Congo between 1957-1960. Another highlight is his 1965 publication of two volumes in Grasse’s Traite de Zoology.De Coninck has an extensive list of publications on a multitude of topics, several dealing with evolution. He was a highly respected man as is illustrated by the large list of taxa named after him as a new family Deconinckiidae, a genus Coninckia and he himself also (co-) proposed new taxa as the orders Araeolaimida De Coninck & Schuurmans Stekhoven, 1933, Desmodorida De Coninck, 1965, Tripyloidina de Coninck, 1965, next to 12 genera and 60 new species. He had a very successful career as leading scientist, researcher, lecturer, promoter, director, dean and member/chair of a large number of committees. De Coninck was not only loved for his teaching capacities, but also for his father-like behaviour during exams. He retired in 1978 and became Emeritus Professor at Ghent.Prof. Dr Lucien De Coninck was also a charismatic socially engaged man. Through his studies at Ghent University, he was an active student militant fighting for the use of the Flemish language; the Institution became a Flemish University in 1930. He was a convinced free-thinker and freemason and was one of the founders of the Humanistic Association in Flanders. During World War II, he was an active member of the Resistance and he received several official medals and decorations for his actions.Lucien De Coninck was honoured several times for his contributions to the science of Nematology, e.g. with the Lamarck prize (a 5-yearly prize) of the Royal Belgian Academy and Honorary Memberships of the Society of Nematology in the USA and the Florida Nematology Forum. Lucien De Coninck had a warm personality, a fine sense of humour and was highly intelligent. He was loved and honoured by everyone who new him. He was a great man, a great Belgian and a perfect representative of the human race.For more information, see Decraemer, W., Coomans, A. & Geraert, E. (2009). Life and work of Prof. Dr. Lucien De Coninck – Biologist, humanist and freemason. Academia press, Ghent, Belgium, 169pp. ISBN 978 90 382 1499 3, and the book reviews by Hunt, D. (2011) in Nematology 13, 759 and by Pena-Santiago, R. (2011) in Journal of Nematode Morphology and Systematics 14, 76.