Newsflash - Vale, Professor Gérard Poupeau
Written by Michael Krochmal   
Monday, 23 June 2014 00:00


It is my very sad duty to report that my friend, and good friend and great teacher to many

Professor Gérard Poupeau

passed away on Tuesday 10 June 2014.


Gérard, or “Poupeau”, as he was known by one and all, was a very special friend to me. I first met him when I visited him in his lab in Grenoble, France, after the International FTD (Fission Track Dating) conference in Besançon in 1988. We became good friends, and I visited him several times, both in Bordeaux (where he became the Director of the Research Centre for Applied Physics in Archaeology at Bordeaux University) and more recently in Amboise, in the beautiful Loire Valley outside of Paris (the city of his birth), where he (and Leonardo da Vinci also) retired. The last time I saw Gérard was just last September.

Poupeau knew how to organise himself : when the season was wonderful in France, he spent his time there. When the weather turned bad in France, he worked in his other lab in Rio de Janeiro, and visited his many friends there and elsewhere in Brazil. Interestingly, Gérard did not attend the many international FTD conferences which have taken place over the years. When I asked him why, he displayed his typical concern for others. He replied that these conferences are much more important for the students, who can make important contacts and report on their work, than for professors like himself. He always was a true gentleman.

Poupeau and I travelled the length and breadth of Brazil at one time. What was amazing was how he was welcomed with open arms and great warmth and enthusiasm, everywhere we went. He was a truly wonderful person, and very knowledgeable, and loved by all. One fun quirk he had was that he apparently refused to award the PhD to his many students in both France and Brazil unless they passed the final test : they had to know how to mix a perfect “caip”. This drink, caipirinha, is legendary in Brazil, and I am grateful to Gérard for introducing me to it. (RECIPE AND BACKGROUND HERE : In fact, I intend to have a large caip in his honour as soon as I return to my home (I’m in Asia on business right now) (Done!).

The last time I saw Poupeau, he seemed to be in good health, and his passing came as a great shock to me when I learned about it a few days ago. It will no doubt be a great shock also to his many friends. I believe that the world of FTD has suffered a great loss with his passing, and that he will be sorely missed by many. He was what we in Australia would call a “quiet achiever”, never pushing himself into the limelight, but actually greatly encouraging and enhancing the careers of many. My sincere condolences go out to his wonderful wife Nicole, and to his daughter Isabelle, whom I have sadly never met.

I will sign off with a message to Gérard - a phrase he used often in his emails to me :

Avec toutes mes amitiés et à très bientôt, Gérard !

Farewell, my friend, and Rest In Peace !


I am honoured to be allowed to separately post on this webpage further tributes penned by his Brazilian friends and colleagues.

The first of these is a beautiful and comforting quotation from a book
received from my very good friend and irma (sister)
Professora Ana Maria Ribeiro Althoff, of Porto Alegre, Brazil :

‘The journey is never over. Only travellers come to an end. But even then they can prolong their voyage in their memories, in recollections, in stories. When the traveller sat in the sand and declared: “There’s nothing more to see” he knew it wasn’t true. The end of one journey is simply the start of another. You have to see what you’ve missed the first time, see again what you already saw, see in the springtime what you saw in the summer, in daylight what you saw at night, see the sun shining where you saw the rain falling, see the crops growing, the fruits ripen, the stone which has moved, the shadow that was not there before. You have to go back to the footsteps already taken, to go over again or add fresh ones alongside them. You have to start the journey anew. Always. The traveller sets out once more’.

~Jose Saramago : “Journey to Portugal”.

Thank you, irma Ana, for these words of solace !


The next is a tribute by Professora Maria Lidia Vignol.
Lidia has chosen to write in French - the language of love, and the language in which she and Gérard communicated.
It is a beautiful message :

Je n’oublierai  jamais le temps passé avec Gérard. Tout d’abord mon directeur de these qui m’a fait découvrir le monde des traces de fission, et au fur et à mesure des années, Il est devenu un grand ami. D’esprit vif et d’une grande generosité, Gérard m’a beaucoup appris. Je me souviendrai toujours aussi bien les moments de discussions sur les sciences que ceux passés à écouter Raimond Devos lorsque nous riions jusqu’aux larmes. Un grand salut, mon ami.

(For those of you who don't speak French, here is a translation, as best I could manage with my schoolboy French.
Any mistakes are all mine. Lidia tells me that Raymond Devos was a French comic who had great presence of mind and told a lot of stories about the absurdity of things. Thank you, Lidia !) :

I will never forget the time I spent with Gérard.
Initially, he was
my thesis supervisor who helped ​​me to discover the world of fission tracks.
But as the years passed, he also became a great friend.
Possessed of a sharp wit and great generosity, Gérard taught me a lot.
I will always remember
the times we discussed science, and those moments spent listening to Raymond Devos, when we laughed until we cried.
A big hello, my friend.




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