Content uploaded by P.C. Van Welzen
All content in this area was uploaded by P.C. Van Welzen on Jun 02, 2015
Content may be subject to copyright.
© 2012 Nationaal Herbarium Nederland
You are free to share - to copy, distribute and transmit the work, under the following conditions:
Attribution: You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
Non-commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
No derivative works: You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work, which can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/legalcode. Any of the above conditions can be
waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.
Blumea 57, 2012: 103 –104
When on the 14th of August this year Dr. M.M.J. (Max) van
Balgooy celebrates his eightieth birthday, we expect him to be
at the herbarium to solve another identity problem or two of
Malesian plant specimens in the Leiden herbarium collection,
or especially sent to him by a colleague from abroad desperate
to have his or her plants reliably named. For Max, the gently
induced early retirement in 1994 (senior scientists in university
service were thus encouraged to help budget savings in the
nineties in The Netherlands) never meant the end of botanical
research, it only opened the way to more freedom to devote time
to his great passion: tropical plants. In recent years, that means
spending quality time in Leiden with the herbarium collections
overseeing the pre-identiﬁcations of all incoming specimens
from SE Asia and the Paciﬁc, alternating with prolonged stays
with his wife Helga in their home on Bali.
Max was born in 1932 in Central Java from an Indonesian
mother and a Dutch father. He spent his formative years on
his parents’ farm and in the surrounding forests on the slopes
of Mt Slamet, satisfying his curiosity in the natural history of
his agricultural and natural environment. The Second World
War and Japanese occupation of Indonesia meant a hiatus in
formal school training, but gave all the more time to explore the
wonders of Javanese nature. High school (HBS-B) in Bandung
was successfully completed in 1952, followed by a BSc in
1957 at the University of Indonesia also in Bandung; in both
high school and university he was taught and inspired by the
well-known pollination biologist Prof. L. van der Pijl. In 1958
he traveled to Leiden for his MSc study, for which he explored
phytogeographical as well as zoological, ecological and etho-
logical themes. Upon obtaining his degree in 1961 he joined
the Rijksherbarium staff, initially unsalaried, later supported
by a prestigious national research council grant. In 1964 he
obtained a tenured research post at the Rijksherbarium, then
an integral part of Leiden University. Under the stimulating
guidance of Prof. C.G.G.J. van Steenis he made a compre-
hensive and critical analysis of all genera of phanerogams in
the Paciﬁc, resulting in his PhD thesis on ‘Plant-Geography of
the Paciﬁc’ published as a Blumea Supplement in 1971, and
still a classic reference. In the summary of his thesis Max men-
tions unreliable plant identiﬁcations as the greatest potential
source of error in this kind of analysis. No wonder, therefore,
that he devoted so much time and effort throughout his botani-
cal career to the identiﬁcation of herbarium specimens. In his
early years at the Rijksherbarium he was allowed to join the
two formidable experts of Malesian flowering plants, Professor
Van Steenis and Dr. R.C. Bakhuizen van den Brink, in their
frequent identiﬁcation sessions of incoming herbarium material.
He would soon rival or even exceed their expertise and in the
ﬁrst decade of his retirement Max would make that collective
expert information accessible for a wider audience in his trilogy
on Malesian Seed Plants (1997, 1998 and 2001), including a
volume illustrating and deﬁning diagnostic spot-characters of
families and a large number of species-rich genera, and two
volumes on the individual families of trees, shrubs, climbers and
herbs in the Flora Malesiana area. This trilogy has rightly been
hailed as a milestone in Malesian botany, and forms the basis of
a later, and still current, project to produce user-friendly digital
identiﬁcation keys, web-based and on CD-ROM, jointly with the
SE Asia team of the Kew Herbarium. Plans for a completely
new edition to be published in Singapore are being rumored.
Throughout his career, plant collecting in the Malesian and
Paciﬁc region was a main preoccupation. Max made substantial
collections in the following localities: Mt Wilhelm in Papua New
Guinea (1965); Australia: Lord Howe Island, Northern Territory,
and Queensland (1965, 1971); Tahiti and Bora Bora (1971); Ma-
laya (1974, 1975, 1996); Sulawesi (1979); Hawaii (1982, 1992)
On Max van Balgooy’s 80th birthday
, M.C. Roos
, P.C. van Welzen
Published on 6 July 2012
Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis (section NHN), Leiden Uni-
versity, P.O. Box 9514, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands;
corresponding author e-mail: Pieter.Baas@naturalis.nl.
Dr. M.M.J. van Balgooy (photo by B.N. Kieft).
Blumea – Volume 57 / 2, 2012
New Zealand (1983), Maluku (1984, 1992–1994); Kalimantan
(1986–1990); New Caledonia (1995); Sabah (1996, 1998),
Manado (2003– 2005) and multiple collections from Bali and
Java. Fifteen species of plants and insects were named after
him, including Balgoya pacifica Morat & Meijden (Polygalaceae)
from New Caledonia.
Although priding himself on being a fanatic botanist or botani-
cal nerd (‘vakidioot’, echoing his teacher Van Steenis), Max’s
life knows more passions than just botany. A very major one is
sports, especially badminton. Following a respectable career
with his wife Helga, whom he met on a badminton court, as high
level competitors in this noble sport, Max was a national and
international umpire for 22 years, retiring during a self-selected
match of the Ladies’ Single ﬁnal at the Scottish Open in 1988.
Good food and humor are two other hobbies from which his
friends and colleagues have beneﬁted. Max’s satay and sa-
taysauces are famous and have enriched many a Herbarium
BBQ. Sketches in Indonesian Dutch presented during staff
parties were another much-loved treat. On the occasion of Prof.
Van Steenis´ retirement in 1972 Max assembled and edited a
collection of hilarious anecdotes under the title ‘Steenisiana’:
a very important source for future biohistorians.
Throughout his career Max has felt part of the Flora Malesiana
network initiated by Professor van Steenis. Members of that
extended family from all over the world, but mostly from the
Malesian region, are very much indebted to Max, especially for
his continuing efforts to correctly (pre-)identify their herbarium
specimens. Although not listed by the web of science, correct
identiﬁcation labels on herbarium specimens are in fact impor-
tant mini-publications without which all subsequent highflying
ecological, phytogeographical and other analyses based on
botanical collections would be impossible. Max, many thanks
for your continued efforts and for passing on your expertise to
a younger generation. May you continue for many years with
Helga at your side.
Van Balgooy MMJ. 1971. Plant geography of the Paciﬁc – as based on a
census of phanerogam genera. Blumea Supplement 6, 222 pp.
Van Balgooy MMJ. (red.). 1972. Steenisiana – anecdotes around Professor
Dr. C.G.G.J. van Steenis. Leiden, Rijksherbarium, 38 pp.
Van Balgooy MMJ. (& C.G.G.J. van Steenis, eds). 1966 –1993. Paciﬁc Plant
Areas Vols. 2, 3, 4 & 5. Leiden, Rijksherbarium.
Van Balgooy MMJ. 1997. Malesian Seed Plants Vol. 1. Spot-characters – an
aid for the identiﬁcation of families and genera. Leiden, Rijksherbarium,
Van Balgooy MMJ. 1998. Malesian Seed Plants Vol. 2. Portraits of tree
families. Leiden, Rijksherbarium, 307 pp.
Van Balgooy MMJ. 2001. Malesian Seed Plants Vol. 3. Portraits of non-tree
families. Leiden, National Herbarium of the Netherlands. 260 pp.