Yesterday it came to my attention that Dr. M. Kassas passed away in March, aged 91. One of the most extraordinary scientific luminaries in Egypt, his botanical work over many decades cut a broad and fertile swath in areas of desert ecology and environmental changes over time, especially in relation to desertification – a process he is held to have brought to both public and scientific attention.
When working in the Red Sea hills and Red Sea coast for several years in the 1980s together with researchers from Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3), we found his work on habitats in the area was particularly valuable in assessing movements and pasturage of livestock (mainly camels) and changes that had taken place since his work in the area several decades before (see below list). (A couple of popular blogs on our work in the Red Sea area can be found here and here.)
Whether he left behind students who could continue his work I do not know, but hope that to be the case. Here are a few announcements of his passing.
Following the death of Dr. Mohamed Kassas:
It is with great regret and with deepest sympathy that the Club of Rome announces the death of Dr. Mohamed Kassas, Professor Emeritus of Botany, University of Cairo, former President of IUCN and Honorary Member of the Club of Rome. He will always be remembered.
He studied at the University of Cairo, where he received a B.Sc. in 1944 and a M.Sc. in 1947, and at the University of Cambridge (Ph.D. in 1950). A specialist in the ecology of desert plants, and was among the first to publish on the topic of desertification. Kassas was an advisory member of the United Nations Environment Programme from its beginning, and from 1978 to 1984 president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 1981, he was appointed a member of the Shura Council, the upper house of the Parliament of Egypt.
Here is a recent bibliography of early studies on ecology and botany in Egypt with Dr. Kassas’ studies in bold – source below:
BERRY L., WHITEMAN A.J., The Nile in the Sudan, in «The Geographical Journal» 134 (1968), pp. 1-33.
BODENHEIMER F.S., The Manna of Sinai, in «The Biblical Archaeologist» 10 (Feb. 1947), pp. 2-6.
DAVIS P.H., The Vegetation of the Deserts Near Cairo, in «Journal of Ecology» 41/1 (1953), pp. 157-173.
HAMSHAW THOMAS H., Some Observations on Plants in the Libyan Desert, in «Journal of Ecology» 9/1 (1921), pp. 75-89.
KASSAS M., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: I. Introduction, in «Journal of Ecology» 40/2 (1952), pp. 342-351.
KASSAS M., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: II. The Features of a Desert Community, in «Journal of Ecology» 41/2 (1953), pp. 248-256.
KASSAS M., On the Ecology of the Red Sea Coastal Land, in «Journal of Ecology» 45/1 (1957), pp. 187-203.
KASSAS M., GIRGIS W.A., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: V. The Limestone Plateau, in «Journal of Ecology» 52/1 (1964), pp. 107-119.
KASSAS M., GIRGIS W.A., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: VI. The Units of a Desert Ecosystem, in «Journal of Ecology» 53/3 (1965), pp. 715-728.
KASSAS M., GIRGIS W.A., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: VII. Geographical Facies of Plant Communities, in «Journal of Ecology» 58/2 (1970), pp. 335-350.
KASSAS M., IMAM M., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: III. The Wadi Bed Ecosystem, in «Journal of Ecology» 42/2 (1954), pp. 424-441.
KASSAS M., IMAM M., Habitat and Plant Communities in the Egyptian Desert: IV. The Gravel Desert, in «Journal of Ecology» 47/2 (1959), pp. 289-310.
NICOLL K., Recent environmental change and prehistoric human activity in Egypt and Northern Sudan, in «Quaternary Science Reviews» 23 (2004) 561–580.
MURRAY G.W., The Land of Sinai, in «The Geographical Journal» 119/2 (1953), pp. 140-153.
PHILLIPS J.C., Some Birds from Sinai and Palestine, in «The Auk» 32/3 (1915), pp. 273-289.
WILLIAMS M.A.J., ADAMSON D.A., The Physiography of the Central Sudan, in «The Geographical Journal» 139/3 (1973), pp. 498-508.
ZAHRAN M.A., The Vegetation of Egypt, Springer, 2009.
The above list is posted by Daniele Salvoldi in the following blog, which is an excellent resource on Egyptian history (Egyptology = focus, but lots of other good stuff:
This blog is intended as both an instrument for researchers on early explorers in Egypt and Nubia, providing useful tools in the On-line Resources section (On-line books, Archives, Map Collections, Photo Collections, etc.), and as a place to publish original documentation and research on the subject (i.e. List of travellers, Accounts, Letters, etc.). Anyone who would like to contribute with suggestions or articles is warmly welcomed!
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