News in 2021

FIG Honorary Member Jim Smith passed away

James R. Smith
1 October 1935 - 12 August 2021

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of FIG Honorary Member Jim Smith.

Only 1½ months ago Jim attended the FIG General Assembly 2021 with two different audio interviews - one due to the fact that he was appointed Honorary Member of FIG and the second, together with Jan De Graeve, to inform about the seven volumes on the History of Surveying that they have worked on over the past 35 years and which are currently being printed in a special limited edition box set. Unfortunately, and to our big sorrow, Jim will not be able to experience the final books - these books that Jim and Jan have put a lifelong effort into. He was however vividly taking part in the preparations of the printing of the books during these many past months.

Our thoughts go to his family together with a heartfelt thank you for all the very special contributions from Jim to FIG over many many years.

Donate to FIG Permanent Institution of Surveying and Measurement

The daughters of Jim Smith have informed us that  instead of flowers for the funeral that will take place 3 September 2021 they will encourage donations to the FIG Permanent Institution of Surveying and Measurement. The donations will be collected through FIG Foundation. If you want to contribute to this, please make an online donation, and in the comments field please write "Jim Smith".

Thank you!

We have received the following obituary written by John Hohol, FIG Foundation President

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of my dear friend Jim Smith who died this past Thursday, 12 August 2021. He was preceded in death by his dear loving wife Ann.  He is survived by two daughters, Nicola (Michael) Jones and Bridget (Antony) Johns; two grandchildren Eleanor (Peter) McCullagh (Johns) and Peter Johns; and his new baby great-granddaughter Annie McCullagh.  

Jim qualified as a Land Surveyor in 1961 and has been an active member of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) since 1968. This year during the 2021 FIG Working Week General Assembly Jim was named FIG Honorary Member in recognition for his many contributions to FIG over the past 50+ years.   

Jim has authored various survey oriented texts including Everest: The Man and the Mountain (reprinted and again available), From Plane to Spheroid, The Tellurometer from Dr. Wadley to the MRA7 and R S Webb From Shropshire to Paarl via Geodesy and Lesotho.

He started his career in Nigeria as a Provincial Surveyor and also lecturer at the School of Surveying in Oyo teaching the local candidate surveyors and working for a government office in surveying.   

Later he was Principal Lecturer in Surveying in the Civil Engineering Department of Portsmouth Polytechnic (now Portsmouth University) for 21 years and a great part of the English and Colonial surveyors have benefitted from his experience.  

He was not only Editor of the well known survey journal Survey Review for ten years but was also the author of many text books, which have guided more than two generations of Land Surveyors. Together with Jan De Graeve he translated and edited the conversion of the Struve Report from 1855-1857 into English, from early French in 2008.   

Since then he has prepared Notes on the history of determining the size and shape of the earth using meridian arcs, in 5 volumes of some 2100 pages with the aid of Jan. He has also prepared the Meridian arcs through East and South Africa with emphasis on the arc of the 30th Meridian and Connection between the Struve Geodetic Arc and the Arc of the 30th Meridian. Both sets (a total of 3000 pages) are currently being printed and will be available September 2021.

With Jan De Graeve he created The International Institution for the History of Surveying & Measurement- an FIG Permanent Institution, which was formed during the FIG congress in Melbourne in 1994. Jim has served as Honorary Secretary of the Institute since 1995 and was considered the preeminent authority on the history of surveying.

Since 1984 Jim and Jan have organized most of the symposia that have taken place the day before the FIG conferences and or FIG working weeks. Together they prepared the inscription of the Struve Meridian Arc from Northern Norway to the Black Sea covering 10 countries, with the help of local colleagues. They started this after a paper was read in FIG Commission 1. Jan had the Honor to propose the inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage in 1994 to the FIG General Assembly in Melbourne and the WHL inscription was during the UNESCO general meeting in Durban RSA in 2005. Jim had been the silent force to achieve this recognition for our profession worldwide: This was first multi-national achievement covering 10 countries and was the first scientific monument inscribed on the World Heritage List.   

Jim and Jan were currently continuing working on the project from Pole to Pole covering the Struve Meridian Arc, the 30th Meridian and the crossing over the Mediterranean sea from Hammerfest to Buffelsfontein covering 135° of latitude.   

 Jim has been for decades the working hand for friendship between land-surveyors and the silent help and encouragement for young surveyors to publish and share their experiences. He will be dearly missed by family, friends and colleagues. May he rest in peace with his dear wife Ann.  

John Hohol, President FIG Foundation

Jim Smith at FIG General Assembly 2021

Experience the presentation of the Seven Volumes of the History of Surveying at FIG General Assembly session 4 on the Work of FIG:
The section on the History of Surveying begins at the time 1:06:00 starting with an introdcution by FIG Vice President Mikael Lilje.

You can hear the thank you by Jim Smith for the appointment for Honorary Membership of FIG here:
Starting at 28:00

The History of Surveying
7 volumes covering Three Milleniums of Measurement of Earth
35 years of research - 3,000 pages - over 350 illustrations

Secure your special edition set

These seven books include a life-long research and work of Jim Smith and Jan De Graeve on the History of Surveying.

Volumes I-V: Notes on the History of Determining the Size and Shape of the Earth Using Meridian Arcs
Volume VI: Meridian Arcs in East & Southern Africa with Emphasis on the Arc of the 30th Meridian
Volume VII: Connection Between the Struve Geodetic Arc and the Arc of the 30th Meridian

100 Special Edition Sets of the seven volumes are currently being printed. Please read more in the flyer, and reserve your copy of this special edition. The printing of these Special Editions have been made possible by Trimble, and all income from the books are donated in full to FIG Foundation.

Read more in this flyer

Further reading:
  • Obituary by Vitali Kaptüg, The St. Petersburg Society for Surveying & Mapping



Louise Friis-Hansen
16 August 2021