In memoriam Erik Wilhelm Grafarend (1939–2020)

On the 8th of December 2020, one of the most significant personality of geodesy Professor Erik Wilhelm Grafarend passed away. His life was dedicated to science, teaching and raising excellent researchers. The results of his very wide range of scientific activity have made a significant contribution to the development of his research area worldwide. Einstein once said that practical activity must always be based on a well-established theory. This principle was followed in his life by Erik Grafarend.

Erik Grafarend studied mine surveying (bergmännisches Vermessungswesen) at the Clausthal-Zellerfeld University of Technology until 1964. Then he studied geophysics and physics until 1968. After receiving his doctorate in 1966, Erik Grafarend began his career at the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the same University. Here he received his doctorate in 1966. From 1968 he became a member of the Institute for Theoretical Geodesy of the University of Bonn where he began his research activities in the field of mathematical-physical geodesy, and completed his habilitation in 1971 („Die Genauigkeit eines Punktes im mehrdimensionalen Euklidischen Raum” – „The accuracy of a point in multidimensional Euclidean space”), and became an associate professor in the following year (at the age of 32). The years 1972-1973 spent at the Department of Geodetic Science of the Ohio State University in Columbus (USA) and at the Geodetic Institute of the University of Uppsala in Sweden were important stages of his scientific development. In 1975, he accepted a call to the chair for Astronomical and Physical Geodesy at the University of the Bundeswehr in Neubiberg south-east of Munich, Germany. From 1980 until his retirement in 2005, for a quarter of a century Erik W. Grafarend headed the Geodetic Institute of the University of Stuttgart as successor to Karl Ramsayer. At this fertile time main areas of his scientific activity were physical geodesy (Love-Shida theory of earth tides, axial rotation of the Earth), satellite geodetic positioning (study of the role of the theory of relativity), mathematical statistics (estimation optimization, the question of optimal estimation) as well as adjustment calculation and geodetic network design. Even after his retirement, he remained a very active member of the scientific community and a creative scientist in his field of interest.

Based on his extensive knowledge of mathematics, physics and earth sciences, he published some 350 studies in leading professional journals (Acta Geodaetica et Geophysica Hungarica, Advances in Geosciences, Allgemeine Vermessungsnachrichten, Annali di Geofisica, Artificial Satellites, Bollettino di Geodesia e Scienze Affini , Allgemein Vermessungsnachrichten, Bulletin Géodésique, Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, Earth Planets Space, Geophysical Journal International, Geophysical Journal of the Royal astronomical Society, Gerlands Beiträge zur Geophysik, GPS Solutions, Journal of Geodesy, Journal of Geodetic Science, Journal of Geodynamics, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Surveying Engineering, Manuscripta Geodaetica, Marine Geodesy, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Vermessungswesen, Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors, Pure and Applied Geophysics, Rendiconti Lincei Scienze Fisiche e Naturali, Studia Geophysica et Geodaetica, Surveys in Geophysics, Tectonophysics, Zeitschrift für Angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik, Zeitschrift für Geophysik, Zeitschrift für Vermessungswesen). His books „Solving algebraic computational problems in geodesy and geoinformatics” (2005), „Map projections: Cartographic Information Systems” (2006), „Linear and nonlinear models: fixed effects, random effects, and mixed models” (2006), „Algebraic geodesy and geoinformatics” (2010) and his unfortunately left unfinished “Encyclopedia of geodesy” made significant contributions to scientific progress.
The research results of Prof. Grafarend has been widely recognized throughout his life. For the first time in his founding year 1975, he was awarded the Guy Bomford Prize by the International Geodetic Association. In 2000 Prof. Grafarend was awarded the Werner Heisenberg Medal in recognition of his work for international scientific cooperation. He has received numerous honorary professorships: Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (1989), Technical University Darmstadt (1996), Technical University Budapest (1998), University of the Bundeswehr (2000), University of Tehran (2002), University of Navarra in Pamplona (2014). He was an honorary member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Erik Grafarend’s relationship with our institute dates back to the sixties of the last century. Then began his collaboration with our colleague Ferenc Halmos in the field of investigation of gyroscopic theodolites. He has since attended a number of our seminars and our relationship has become regular.
The passing away of our colleague and friend is a loss for the international community of scientists working in geodesy and geophysics. 

Péter Varga

Participants of the Winter Seminar on Geodynamics at Sopron in 1989.

1998. President of Hungary Árpád Göncz congratulates Erik Grafarend on the occasion of receiving Doctor honoris causa at the Budapest Technical University.

IAG 2001 Scientific Assembly in Budapest, Erik Grafarend in the middle among his colleagues.

2010. Ulrike and Erik Grafarend during a discussion meeting at the Kövesligethy Radó Seismological Observatory.