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Haroun Tazieff

Volcanologist and Geologist (1914-1998).Haroun Tazieff was born in Warsaw to Russian parents. After his father’s death in the First World War, he and his mother emigrated to Belgium and became Belgian nationals in 1936. He graduated in agronomy from the Facultés des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux in 1938 and was Belgian Student Boxing Champion during his studies, which continued at the University of Liège, where he graduated with a degree in Geological Engineering in 1944. He was a member of the Belgian resistance during his wartime studies. In 1945, he took up a post as a mining engineer at a tin mine near Kinshasa in the Belgian Congo, and also joined the Congo Geological Service, which enabled him to observe at first hand the eruption of Mount Kituro in 1948. This sparked an interest in volcanoes that was to last his whole life. He returned to Belgium in 1957, following his appointment as Director of the National Centre for Vulcanology at the Free University of Brussels. In 1958, he accepted the post of Director of the Vulcanology Laboratory at the Institut de Physique du Globe at the University of Paris, moved to Paris and was granted French nationality. During the next 12 years, he travelled all over the world to observe volcanic eruptions, and in 1972 became a research director with the CNRS at their low-radioactivity laboratory at Gif-sur-Yvette, specialising in volcanic gases. Following the eruption of Mount Pélée on the island of Martinique in 1973, he was recalled to Paris and sent to Martinique and Guadeloupe as a government adviser. He continued to advise the French government alongside his teaching and research work, becoming Secretary of State for the prevention of natural and technological disasters in Laurent Fabius’s government under President Mitterand from 1984-86, then President of the Higher Volcanic Risk Committee from 1988 to 1995. Tazieff wrote many books and presented several television series, which did much to de-mystify volcanoes and promote the interest of the public in them.

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