I am glad to announce that my friend Jan de Graeve received today the Belgian “Ordre de la Couronne” with rank of officer from the hands of Mr Didier Reynders, minister of Foreign Affairs. The ceremony took place at the Royal Library of Belgium, during the Brussels Map Circle’s annual conference.
Among the lifetime achievements for which Jan is being recognized, which include having been president or founder of several societies of surveyors, probably the one that took the most effort was the inscription by UNESCO of the Struve Geodetic Arc in the World Heritage List in 2005. This 19th-century chain of triangulations, which today spans the territory of 10 different states, enabled to measure the Earth’s size with unprecedented accuracy. The UNESCO highlighted that “the common language of science” was the foundation of the multi-national cooperation that Jan managed to put together. In today’s acceptance speech, Jan joked that the main foundation actually was vodka.
An avid collector, in particular of scientific instruments and of old books, Jan devotes most of his time nowadays to reconstructing the scientific library owned by Gerard Mercator, the famous Flemish instrument and map maker of the 16th century.