The University of Ottawa is saddened to announce the sudden passing on May 11, 2019 in Victoria, B.C. of Dr. Hugh M. French, former Dean of the Faculty of Science and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, and the Department of Earth Sciences.
Dr. French was internationally recognized as a specialist on periglacial processes and permafrost science. In a career at the University of Ottawa that started with his first visit to the Arctic in 1967 and spanned 36 years, plus a further 16 years post-retirement, he wrote or co-wrote more than 160 publications covering topics such as ground ice formation and distribution, slope processes, natural and anthropogenic thermokarst, and frozen ground engineering. He was one of the most widely travelled geocryologists, publishing studies carried out in the Canadian High Arctic and Subarctic, the Tibet Plateau, Antarctica, and parts of Europe and the USA which experienced periglacial conditions during the Quaternary.
His many accomplishments included founding the journal Permafrost and Periglacial Processes which he edited for 16 years, and writing four editions of his textbook The Periglacial Environment over nearly 30 years, the last of which was published in 2017. Professor French also played important roles in the International Permafrost Association helping found it in 1983 and subsequently as Vice-President from 1993 to1998 and President from 1998 to 2003.
He received the Roger J.E. Brown Award of the Canadian Geotechnical Society for outstanding contributions to permafrost science and engineering, the Award for Scholarly Distinction in Geography from the Canadian Association of Geographers, and the International Permafrost Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Hugh M. French Award for outstanding contributions to permafrost science and/or periglacial geomorphology, which was named in his honour, will be awarded for the first time by the Canadian Permafrost Association at the Eighth Canadian Permafrost Conference in Québec City in August 2019.