Prominent FRIM botanist, Bapak Soepadmo, dies aged 83


For his contribution towards the enhancement of knowledge in flora and plant biodiversity in the South-East Asia region, Soepadmo was bestowed the prestigious Merdeka Award in 2012 as well as the Linnean Medal by The Linnean Society of London in 2015. Photos: Facebook/FRIM

Well-known FRIM botanist and ecologist Dr Engkik Soepadmo, fondly known as "Bapak" among fellow botanists and colleagues, passed away earlier today. He was 83.

Soepadmo was responsible for discovering 56 species of tropical plants and trees. His peers named six species of plants after him – Actinodaphne soepadmoi (Lauraceae), Aglaia soepadmoi (Meliaceae), Cinnamomum soepadmoi (Lauraceae), Ficus soepadmoi (Moraceae), Syzygium soepadmoi (Myrtaceae), and Vatica soepadmoi (Dipterocarpaceae).

In recognition of his contribution towards the enhancement of knowledge in flora and plant biodiversity in the South-East Asia region, he was bestowed the prestigious Merdeka Award in 2012 as well as the Linnean Medal by The Linnean Society of London in 2015.Soepadmo (right) receiving the Linnean Medal in 2015.Soepadmo (right) receiving the Linnean Medal in 2015.

Soepadmo was also nominated as a candidate for the prestigious Blue Planet Prize in 2009 and conferred Honorary Life Membership by the Malaysian Nature Society.

“The late Bapak Soepadmo had contributed significantly to the research and conservation of Malaysia’s forest plant diversity. His passing is a great loss to FRIM as well as the botanical circle. He will surely be missed, ” said FRIM director general Dr Khali Aziz Hamzah on Facebook.

Born on March 13,1937 in Kampung Tegalan, Kartosuro – about 40km from Solo town in Central Java, Indonesia – Soepadmo had a strong interest in ecology from a young age.

"Being born and brought up in a kampung environment, it was natural for children like myself to be curious, observant and become well-acquainted with all sorts of trees and other plants growing around our houses, in the orchards, along narrow and winding streets and river banks, and sprawling paddy fields and vegetable gardens," he once said.

Soepadmo later obtained his PhD from Cambridge University in 1966 under the supervision of the late E.J.H. Corner.Soepadmo (centre) with his Merdeka Award in 2012.Soepadmo (centre) with his Merdeka Award in 2012.

He first came to Malaysia in 1968 when he was appointed as a lecturer in Tropical Botany at Universiti Malaya (1968 to 1978), and then as Professor of Ecology from 1978 to 1993, at the same university.

“After considering all aspects of my future, I became thoroughly convinced that Malaysia was the right place to further my academic career,” he had said.

From 1993, he spearheaded the Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak project in FRIM as coordinator and chief editor.

Soepadmo leaves behind his wife, Patricia Soepadmo, a son and a daughter.

Click here for more information on Soepadmo's contribution, research and involvement in the establishment of protected forest areas in Malaysia.

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