Professor Dr Björn Henningsson, first Swedish member of the IRG and the Group’s fifth President, passed away on 3 April at an age of 87. He is survived by his wife Märtha.
Björn joined the IRG in 1970 and attended all meetings between 1971 and 1989 as well as the meetings in 1992, 1995, 1999 and 2013. He became Honorary-Life Long Member in 1999.
For many veteran IRG members Björn’s contributions to the IRG are well known. Besides his term as President 1983-1986, he served as Finance chair, Working group chair, member of the Executive council and the Trustees. Not forgetting his contributions academically, his major contribution to the IRG is probably the important efforts he and Mr Lennart Borup, head of the Swedish Wood Preservation Institute, devoted to secure the continuation of the Group’s permanent Secretariat from 1979 and onwards. The UK had declared that financial support to the Secretary-General Mr Cockcroft was no longer available after the end of 1978. Björn and Mr Borup managed to negotiate a contract with the Swedish National Board for Technical Development to enable Mr Cockcroft to continue the Secretariat from Sweden by carrying out a special research project during half of his time, the other half to be financed by sponsoring companies and organizations as well as membership subscriptions
Björn’s long career in wood protection began in the mid 1960s when he became secretary of the Swedish Wood Preservation Committee and had to take over the responsibility for the Swedish field trials from the late Dr Erik Rennerfelt, who started the well-known Simlångsdalen test site in the early 1940s. In parallel, Björn’s research focused on mycology and the team he later created at the Royal College of Forestry (that became part of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in 1978) became world wide renowned for its fundamental studies of the wood degrading mechanisms of fungi, especially soft rot fungi, and other microorganisms. The department of wood mycology thus attracted guest researchers and students from many countries around the world. Björn’s academic merits awarded him membership of the The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry and Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science. In 2018 he was awarded the title Jubilee Doctor (Doctor jubilaris) at Uppsala University.
Björn’s expertise in wood protection was highly appreciated and he was early involved in the Nordic Wood Preservation Council where he became the first Swedish Technical Expert 1969-1982. His technical expertise was recognised by being invited to take part in the Papua New Guinea workshop “The economy and utilisation of timber in the tropics through wood preservation” sponsored by the PNG and NZ governments (underwritten by the UN through an initiative of the FAO). Here he was introduced by the Director of Forests as one of the world’s foremost experts in wood preservation. He also served on the board of directors of the Swedish Wood Preservation Institute 1978-1993 and he took an active part in national, Nordic and European standardization during many years.
A few years before retirement he was involved in the creation of the Wood Ultrastructure Research Centre 1996-2007 (WURC) - a centre of excellence in the field of wood ultrastructure with the major objective to significantly improve the understanding of the morphological and chemical ultrastructure and the physical interaction between the polymers of the wood fibre as a basis for industrial utilization.
In his private life he had many interests: flowers and gardening, art, antiques just to mention a few.
Jöran Jermer and Harry Greaves
With sadness I observed that Björn Henningsson have passed away. Björn’s expertise and doings is very well described by Jöran and Harry.
It is my feeling that there is one more very important part of Björn’s doings and expertise which were very descriptive for who Björn Henningsson was and why he was so extraordinary respected and loved around the world. When Björn participated in any type of meeting, whatever local or international, participants were listening and most of the proposals he contributed with, were agreed too. Also, when something turned politically, he was able to turn off such politicization of a subject matter and apply common sense. Some would say: How come and why?
The reason was that Björn in all his doings was always extreme polite and respectful to others. Had the special gift of treating all other people equal, regardless of who they were, from where they come, of what position they had, were young or old, experienced or inexperienced, of which race, religion, or political affinity they belonged to. From my many years of having worked with Björn at CEN (Central European Standardization) representing Denmark as well as in many other aspects, I like to illustrate his very special and unique “pollical-nonpolitical” skills with the following example:
Once a year, a weeklong official workgroup meeting of CEN was held somewhere in Europe. CEN headquarter in Paris were the organizer, and there were always a very experienced translator present for doing simultaneous translation between English, German and French at these meetings. (Very time consuming.) The French, German and UK delegation was normally happy with this translation arrangement. Doing such a week, many discussions took place outside the official meeting on diverse subject matters. Such communications were always in English. At one such meeting Björn utilized his special “nonpolitical political” skills. He crafted a proposal for the workgroup to accept that the work-language at these meetings should be English and only the conclusions for agreements in the end of the meeting should be translated. He called on me the evening before, and “dictated” me to take care to second his proposal immediately after it was presented. At next day’s meeting Björn raised and started speaking in Swedish and continued until sufficient mumbling came from the translator, chairman and others. He shifted to English and expressed that most of the members present have without complaining accepted to use a different language than their native language. As he concluded that all were able to professional communicate together in English, he presented the proposal for change of work language, which, as he had planned, was second immediately. The Chairman placed it for a vote, and it was unanimous approved. Everybody happy, even the English, French and German delegates who sometimes could be protective for which language should be prominent.
This is just one little example of what Björn was able to do. None dared to complain when common sense was presented by a master like Björn.
As a veteran and lifelong IRG member I always admired Björn’s ability always to combine professional excellence with polite and respectful appearance. It is my hope that many young and upcoming IRGWP members will be able to learn that professional excellence mixed with politeness and respect for others as Björn Henningsson have shown us is admirable and worth to live for.
Honor be his memory.
Veteran and lifelong IRG member
John Hansen, Denmark. (Now USA)
This tribute was written for the April 2022 IRG newsletter.