Geodesy goodbye

Roel Nicolai has stepped down from the Geomatics Committee’s Geodesy Subcommittee – more than 20 years after having joined its preceding Working Group.

Throughout, Roel has “stood out as a man of vision and technical aptitude,” says Subcommittee Chairman, Roger Lott. “During his time on the Subcommittee Roel has been instrumental in the data modelling of the Geomatics Committee’s flagship EPSG Geodetic Parameter Dataset ( He led its migration to the webbased platform. Roel also edited early versions of the P1 and P2 seismic navigation data formats, in which he created terms that have entered into international mathematical literature”.

So committed has Roel been to Geodesy (the science of measuring and understanding the earth’s geometric shape, its orientation in space and its gravity field – as well as the changes of these properties with time), that he remained on the Subcommittee for a full year after retiring from Shell.

Roel’s final contribution to IOGP’s Geodesy Subcommittee work has been his editorship of the highly complex new Geomatics Guidance Note 373-25 on dynamic coordinate reference systems – coordinates of points in these systems change with time. An example of the dynamic coordinate reference system is WGS 84 coordinate reference system used for GPS satellite navigation.

Even after his departure from IOGP, Roel will continue with his passion. He will now concentrate on chairing the Dutch Society for the History of Geodesy and continue his research into the history of portolan charts, where he has demonstrated through the application of geodetic principles that academic theories for their origins are not correct. Roel’s challenges to conventional wisdom will be missed by the Geodesy Subcommittee, IOGP and the industry as a whole. We wish him well in his ‘retirement’.

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