Bertha Becker

1931 - 2013

Bertha Becker, a pioneering Brazilian geographer, died on July 13, 2013. She was 82.

The professor emeritus at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro specialized in Amazonian issues. Her lifelong research, which focused on the political geography of Brazil, took Becker throughout every region of her native country. Extensive fieldwork shaped her findings and unique view of environmental conditions caused by human occupation and devastation.

Becker was a graduate of the University of Brazil, receiving her degree in geography and history in 1952. She completed her doctorate in 1970 at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where Becker became a long-time professor. She also conducted post-doctorial studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s urban studies and planning department.

During her career, Becker received a number of honors. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Lyon in France. She was presented the Carlos Chagas Filho Scientific Merit award. The American Geographical Society granted her the David Livingstone Centenary Medal.

Becker had more than 180 published works, including books, articles, papers and chapters. She was a member of the editorial boards of national and international publishers. She consulted for scientific institutions, including the National Research Council, and helped develop public policies for the Ministries of Science and Technology in Brazil.

She served as vice president for both the International Geographical Union (1996-2000) and the International Advisory Group of the Pilot for the Protection of Tropical Forests (1995-2005). She was also a panelist at the United Nations’ Rio + 20 conference.

“Bertha was one of a small cadre of social scientists who brought geography to prominence in Brazil in the late 1950s and ’60s. Her wise opinions will be missed,” noted David J. Robinson, professor of Latin American geography at Syracuse University.