Pieter van Gijzel
by John R. CastaƱo
from TSOP Newsletter 11 (3/4), December 1994
Dr. Pieter van Gijzel, the driving force behind the formation of TSOP, died of cancer in Apeldorn, The Netherlands on July 28. He is survived by his wife, Sandy.

Pieter was a native of The Netherlands, and served in the Dutch Army in the East Indies after World War II, during the time Indonesia was fighting its war of independence. The conflict was unpopular at home, and it was a very difficult time for Pieter. He contracted malaria in Indonesia. After military service, he entered university at Leiden, studying geology, paleobotany, and palynology.
Pieter van Gijzel was a pioneer in the study of fluorescence in organic matter, especially spores and pollen. He was an innovator and inventor, as he helped develop the scientific methodology and characterization of fluorescence. Pieter worked closely with manufacturers of microscopes and accessories in designing better instruments to measure fluorescence. His first publication on the subject was in 1961, and in the 1980's (while working for Texaco) Pieter was granted a patent for developing a new method of quantitative fluorescence spectral analysis.

When I first met Pieter in 1973 he was working in the Botany Department at the University of Nijmegen. In the mid 1970's he worked for a year in the Geology Department at the Institute of Technology, ETH, Zurich doing research on fluorescence. After returning to The Netherlands he came to the United States in 1979 when he got a job with Core Laboratories in Dallas. He then accepted a position with Getty in 1980, retiring from Texaco (the successor company] in December 1988. He returned to The Netherlands in 1989 with plans to work as a consultant, but poor health prevented him from being as active as he wanted to be. When he first started working for Getty he made organic petrographic analyses of coals that were being mined by the company, which resulted in a major financial gain for his employer. He found that coals that were of coking quality were being sold for a lower price as steam coal. With Pieter's data in hand, Getty was able to renegotiate long-term contracts for much higher prices.

It was at Pieter's urging that a group was formed in 1983 (the Houston Committee, or the "Gang of 18"), with Pieter as chairman, that laid the groundwork for the organization that became TSOP in 1984. He envisioned the society as having a very different role than the ICCP, and a more formal structure than the North American Coal Petrographers group. TSOP as presently constituted is somewhat different from Pieter van Gijzel's concept, but we all should be very grateful for his vision and efforts in helping create TSOP.