Current date: Thursday August 25, 2005 - Issue: (715), Volume 13 , From 26 February 2004 to 29 February 2004

A tribute to Prof. Ziad Rafiq Beydoun
The man who gave his life to Yemeni geology

By Dr. Eng. Mohammed Darsi Abdulrahman*

For The Yemen Times

Prof. Ziad Rafiq Beydoun

This is about one of the world’s most famous geologists, who gave his time and life to studying the geology of Yemen, the country in which he spent much of his early career, as a geologist in its southern part. He maintained a life-long interest in it. It is my third article on this outstanding geologist, with rich information and new suggestions.
In my opinion Ziad Rafiq Beydoun, is one of the most famous of all eastern geologists, who played a great role in the geological research history of the Republic of Yemen. So I regard him as the third stage of the geological research history work of Yemen. (See Yemen Times. Issue 2-January 10th through January 16 2000, Vol. IX, Culture Page, Issue 10 - March 6 through March 12 2000, Vol. X, Culture Page, Issue 15 - April 10 through April 16 2000, Vol. X, Culture Page, Issue 6 - February 5 through February 11 2001, Vol. XI, Health Page and Issue 6 - March 3 through March 9 2003, Vol. XIII, Local Page).
We (Yemeni Geologists) are highly appreciative of him as a brilliant mind who wrote many books about Yemen, and rendered distinguished services to geological exploration and research. He was not only the major scientific figure in the Middle East during the second part of the 20th-century Yemen, but also held a leading position internationally.

Beydoun’s background
Ziad Rafiq Beydoun was born in Beirut, Lebanon on 9 December 1924, and grew up in Haifa, Palestine, where he went to school. Ziad’s father was Mutasarrif of Haifa in the last days of the Ottoman Empire and his mother was of Turkish lineage.
His grandfather was a governor in Palestine, and the family had a mansion in Acca (Acre) which Ziad’s father and uncles inherited. Ziad Rafiq Beydoun had a Palestinian childhood and his heart remained with his fellow refugees, but much of his education was British — from school in Alexandria to his degree in geology and later doctorate at Oxford.
He took his first-class degree at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in political science and history and studied geology to doctorate level at St Peter’s College, Oxford. Beydoun joined the Iraqi Petroleum Company in 1948 and actively spent the next 15 years in surface and subsurface geology across the Middle East - mainly in the deserts of Arabia and Yemen.
Beydoun earned his Oxford doctorate - awarded in 1961 for his thesis on the geology of Yemen - on the basis of his practical findings. However, he produced a geological survey of most of the region, which was published in 1961 and remains the definitive work on the subject. He played a key role in the discovery of oil in Oman.
In 1963, he returned to Lebanon, and held the posts of assistant professor at AUB- American University of Beirut and that of geological advisor in the ministry of national economy. In 1966 he moved to London to take charge of Marathon Oil’s Middle East and North African evaluation studies.

American University
When he returned to AUB in 1970 as professor of geology, he continued to advise Marathon, spending summers in its London office, frequently visiting its research centre in Colorado. He maintained his interest in what became Yemeni geology when he moved on to teaching at the American University, Beirut, and later while working for Marathon International Petroleum.
In 1977, late Dr. Ziad Beydoun and his colleagues from the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese University, the National Council for Scientific Research and the Geology & Mining Department of the Ministry of Electrical and Water resources established the Lebanese Geological Society.
He married in 1983, and lived mainly in London between 1985 and 1993. He became a scientific director of a World Bank/UNDP project on hydrocarbons in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in 1987. He was patron of the Oxford University Expedition to north Yemen in 1990, which undertook a geological study of Kohlan in Hajjah province. He was made professor emeritus in1992.
His academic contacts were on a large scale, especially when he held consultancies for oil companies including ARCO, Bow Valley, Aran and Hunt Oil. He participated in over 40 leading international and regional congresses, and was an editorial board member of the Journal of Petroleum Geology.
Beydoun received the William Smith medal from the Geological Society of London in 1994 for his “outstanding achievement in petroleum geology” and was awarded the Medal of the National Order of Cedars by the Government of Lebanon for “distinguished services to geological investigations and research” in 1995.
When Ziad himself started studying geology, nearly all geologists working in the Middle East were Europeans or Americans. Today most Middle Eastern countries have their own geologists, many of them trained by Ziad. He had the gift of tongues — Arabic, English, French and Turkish and was truly international in outlook, avoiding politics and concentrating his skill as a practising and teaching geologist in whatever country or ocean he happened to be.
On March 7, 1998, Beydoun died in Beirut, at the age of seventy-three. In a televised ceremony in Sana’a in September after his death, the Prime Minister of Yemen presented Beydoun’s widow, Muntaha Saghiyeh (a distinguished archaeologist), with the Republic’s Science Medal — awarded posthumously to Ziad in recognition of his unique contribution to the study of Yemeni geology.
What others said of him
“Almost any paper on the geology of the Middle East refers to his books. He constructed a framework of regional geology that others will be building upon for the next hundred years,” says his AUB colleague, Chris Walley.
“His knowledge was encyclopedic,” says Walley. “You could bring up any part of the region, and he would remember that someone had drilled down to 3,000 meters and what they’d found. Ziad was a fast, accurate writer who set the standard in the region for writing science in English.”
“He was a softly spoken, straightforward, honest man,” says long-time friend, Nabeel Ashkar.
“I was always impressed and touched by his gentlemanly behavior,” says Pierre Azoury, AUB professor of mechanical engineering.
“Despite pain and exhaustion, he continued to write and produce. At his hospital bed, he was surrounded by books and new articles,” says his widow, Muntaha Saghieh.
“After all,” noted Helga Seeden, “we stand on geology. Archaeology and all the rest are man-made extras.”
His most famous publication on the geology of Yemen Beydoun had a huge output of published work, including six books and over 40 papers in international journals.
In this respect, I would like to invite all people, who are interested in Beydoun Z.R.’s life and works not just to write about him often, but also to introduce his work and life in the Middle East and mainly in Yemen to others in a scientific documentary film.
I am sure, this step is going to help others to understand, what kind of works and activities had been done during the main part of the third stage of the geological research history work of the Republic of Yemen or Beydoun Z.R. Stage.
I also would like to introduce the following suggestion to the Yemeni Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources: (To establish two memorial awards in honor of the great Yemeni Scientist Al-Hassan Bin Ahmed Bin Yakob Al-Hamadani (893 A.C -956 A.C) for his scientific studies and great role in the field of geology, and the late Professor Ziad Rafiq Beydoun, for his contribution to the petroleum geology of the Middle East and especially the Yemeni Geology.
It will be great deal if the above-mentioned two memorial awards are going to be given each year at the Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources on it’s annual international conferences on the Yemeni Geology for excellence in poster presentation, abstracts, scientific papers, documental and scientific film)
As a result of above-mentioned works the future petroleum exploration activities is going to be boosted up attracting many foreign exploration investment agencies to work in Yemen.
* Dr. Eng. Mohammed Darsi Abdulrahman is a staffer of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Authority, PEPA’s Office in Aden

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