Jaromir (Jerry) Němec 1926 (Prague, Czechoslovakia) – 2010 (Geneva, Switzerland)
Jerry Němec was born in Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, in November 1926. In his youth he travelled extensively and acquired a wide knowledge of other cultures and languages. He studied at the Czech Technical University and graduated with a civil engineering degree in 1955. He went on to specialise in hydrology and water resources development. After holding a number of posts, he joined the staff of the Agricultural University in Prague and rose to the position of Professor: teaching, undertaking research and visited many other countries to lecture and advise on a variety of water projects.
He also attended international meetings as part of his country’s delegation and on one such occasion in Paris he met Jean: the wonderful lady who was to become his wife. He also learnt of a post that was vacant with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and in August 1965 he moved to Geneva where he became the Chief of the Hydrometeorology Division within the WMO Secretariat.
One could say of Jerry “once met never forgotten” and yes – he stepped on a lot of toes – and maybe he had to; but he also earned the admiration of all who knew him, including those who did not agree with him. It was not easy working in the HWR Department in the 70s and 80s but all those who did so now look back on those years as some of the most productive and fulfilling of their careers. Tributes have been received from many who declare that Jerry was one of the most important people in their lives and they would not have achieved what they did if they had not at one time been a member of the HWR team.
Jerry left WMO in the middle of 1987 to spend the next two years working for FAO in Rome. From 1989 on and for many years he was active as a technical adviser and a university lecturer in Europe and the USA. He and Jean travelled frequently between Switzerland, the Czech Republic and the USA.
In 1988 he was awarded the International Hydrology Prize, which is given by the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) in co-operation with WMO and UNESCO. That year the Prize was jointly awarded to Jerry and to Dr Sorin Dumitrescu who had been his counterpart within the UNESCO Secretariat. In making the award, the President of IAHS, Vit Klemes, spoke of the complementarity of their work and of the complementarity of their personal styles: “the low-key Dr Dumitrescu reaching his successes as if from the background, while the not-so-low-key Dr Němec achieved them in the front lines.”
As Chief of the Hydrometeorology Division within the WMO Secretariat, Jerry believed fiercely in the importance of applied hydrology as a basis for sustainable economic development and for safeguarding and improving the lives of the people. As soon as he arrived in Geneva, he threw himself into the fight for hydrology to be given due recognition within WMO and for WMO to be recognized as one of the leading international organizations in freshwater matters. When he left WMO, 22 years later, he had built his Branch into a full Hydrology and Water Resources (HWR) Department of which he was the first Director.
Rarely, if ever, has the UN system seen such commitment and energy from one its staff. Jerry did not “suffer fools gladly“ and if he thought what you were saying was incorrect or ill-advised, he said so in no uncertain terms – whether within the confines of his office or from the podium of an intergovernmental congress. He had a very powerful voice – and rarely closed the door of his office – so the entire WMO Secretariat, in fact the whole world, was always up-to-date with the ups and down of the HWR Department. Many were those who woke from their bureaucratic slumber to mutter words to the effect that “this is not the way things are done in the UN system”. But the result was that things were done – a lot of things were done – because Jerry did not just believe in hydrology, he worked long hours and travelled the world to promote its application. He even took extended leave in 1982 as one of the first to conduct research into the potential impact of climate change on river systems. It would be impossible to list all of his achievements during his years with WMO, but most important were; to have hydrology given its rightful place within the Organization; to launch a series of major technical co-operation projects, such as those for Lake Victoria and Central America; and, despite all the machinations to the contrary, to obtain WMO Congress’ approval for the establishment of the “HOMS” programme.
Source: IAHS Obituary by Arthur Askew
Nemec, J., 1973. Summary: Interaction Between Reservoirs and the Atmosphere and its Hydrometeorological Elements. Man-Made Lakes: Their Problems and Environmental Effects, pp.398-405.
Dumitrescu, S. and Němec, J., 1974. Hydrology—A look back and a look forward, Three Centuries of Scientific Hydrology, UNESCO/WMO/IASH, 16–22.
Nemec, J. and Kite, G.W., 1981. Mathematical model of the Upper Nile basin (comments on logistics and benefits of simulation models). Logistics and Benefits of Using Mathematical Models of Hydrologic and Water Resource Systems, p.167.
Němec, J. and Schaake, J., 1982. Sensitivity of water resource systems to climate variation. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 27(3), pp.327-343.
Nernec, J., 1983. The concept of runoff in the global water budget. In Variations in the Global Water Budget (pp. 479-488). Springer Netherlands.
Němec, J., 1984. Application of space sciences to hydrology and water resources: The potential and practical use as reflected by WMO experience. Advances in space research, 4(11), pp.185-192.
Němec, J., 1986. Design and operation of forecasting operational real-time hydrological systems (FORTH). In River Flow Modelling and Forecasting (pp. 299-327). Springer Netherlands.
Becker, A. and Nemec, J.A.R.M.I.R., 1987. Macroscale hydrologic models in support to climate research. The Influence of Climate Change and Climatic Variability on the Hydrologie Regime and Water Resources, pp.431-445.
NĚMEC, J., 1994. Climate variability, hydrology and water resources: do we communicate in the field?(HAPEX, FIFE, GEWEX, GCIP and what next?). Hydrological Sciences Journal, 39(3): 193-197.