Luc Hoffmann

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Hans Lukas (Luc) Hoffmann

Hans Lukas “Luc” Hoffmann (born 23 January 1923, Basel) is an ornithologist, conservationist and philanthropist.[1][2] He co-founded the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)[3] and helped establish the Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetlands.[4] He has set up the Tour du Valat research centre in the Camargue area of France.[5] He is the author of more than 60 (mostly ornithological) books.

Early life[edit]

Luc Hoffmann's grandfather, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche, founded the company Hoffmann-La Roche in 1896. He is the son of the industrialist Emanuel "Manno" Hoffmann (1896-1932) and the scultptress Maja born Stehlin (1896-1989) and the brother of Vera Oeri-Hoffmann.[6] His family is the majority shareholder in the pharmaceuticals company F.Hoffmann-La Roche. He has used his wealth to endow the MAVA Foundation,[7] which funds nature conservation projects worldwide. He is a chevalier of the National Order of the Légion d’honneur and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[8]

Luc Hoffmann was born in Basel, the second son of the businessman and art-lover Emanuel Hoffmann and the sculptor Maja Hoffmann-Stehlin. His father died in a car crash when he was nine years old [9] and the following year his older brother died of leukaemia. His mother then married the Swiss composer Paul Sacher.[10] Despite the family’s great wealth, Hoffmann was raised frugally. His enthusiasm for the natural world developed during his childhood and he spent much of his free time bird watching in the Basel area. His first academic paper, “Der Durchzug der Strandvögel in der Umgebung Basels” (the passage of seabirds in the vicinity of Basel) appeared in Der Ornithologische Beobachter (the Bird Observer) in 1941, when he was still a schoolboy.[11]

University career[edit]

In 1941 he enrolled at the University of Basel, studying botany and zoology. In 1943 he was conscripted into the Swiss Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant. After the end of the second world war, Hoffmann conducted scientific research and earned a Ph.D. for his work on the different color patterns of the chicks of the common tern (Sterna hirundo) in the Camargue on the Mediterranean coast of France.[12] His supervisor at the University of Basel was Adolf Portmann.

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1953, in Vienna, Hoffmann married Daria Razumovsky (1925-2002),[13] the second child of Count Andreas Razumovsky and Princess Katharina Nikolajevna Sayn-Wittgenstein, who fled Russia in 1918 after the October Revolution. Together they had four children: Vera, Maja, Andre and Daschenka.

Hoffmann was widowed in 2002.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)[edit]

With Peter Scott, Julian Huxley, Max Nicholson and others, Hoffmann became a founder member of the World Wildlife Fund in 1961.[14] He was appointed as its vice-president at the inaugural meeting and served in that role until 1988. He was made vice-president emeritus in 1998. Hoffmann helped establish the Doñana National Park in Andalusia in 1963.[15] He also helped set up the national appeal in Austria in 1963 and in the 1980s served as president of the French national appeal.

Ramsar Treaty[edit]

Hoffmann was one of the founding fathers of the Ramsar Convention,[16] one of the first intergovernmental treaties to protect the environment. The convention aims to conserve wetlands: land that is permanently or periodically covered by shallow water and which typically hosts migratory birds. Some 160 countries [17] have so far contracted to protect their wetlands under the convention, which was devised in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

Tour du Valat[edit]

In 1947 Hoffmann bought an estate in the Camargue and in 1954 he established the Tour du Valat biological research station on it.[18] The continued presence of greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) in France has been attributed to conservation work conducted at Tour du Valat. Hoffmann also supported the breeding of Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) nearby and their reintroduction to their native Mongolia in 2004.[19] Generations of ecologists have trained at Tour du Valat, including John Krebs. More than 60 Ph.D.s have been awarded for research conducted at Tour du Valat by students enrolled at universities in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom.[20]

Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles[edit]

In 2008 Yolande Clergue’s original ambition to create a Fondation Van Gogh was given new momentum by Luc Hoffmann who established a permanent framework called Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles for activities designed to preserve the memory of Vincent Van Gogh in Arles and to foster contemporary art.

Other conservation work[edit]

Hoffmann has made significant contributions to nature conservation in: the Neusiedler See in Austria; the Hortobagy National Park in Hungary; the Prespa region that straddles Greece, Albania and Macedonia;[21] and the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritanea.[22] In 1994 Hoffmann established the MAVA Foundation, which distributes grants for nature conservation in the Mediterranean, the west coast of Africa and the Alps.[23]


From 1953 to 1996 Hoffmann was on the board of Hoffmann-la Roche.[24]


Honorary Doctorate from the University of Basel (2001) Euronature-Environmental Prise (2007) Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1973)[25] Chevalier of the National Order of the Légion d’honneur (1989)[26] Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal awarded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (1998)[27] John C Phillips Medal awarded by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (2004).[28] Honorary Doctorate Degree from Business School Lausanne (2013).


  1. ^ The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge, 2003, I SBN 1-857-43217-7
  2. ^ Nicholas Polunin & Lynn M. Curme (1997) World Who Is Who and Who Does What in Environment & Conservation Earthscan p. 138
  3. ^ Ramsar honours WWF pioneers” 6 July 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2012
  4. ^ 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award: Dr Luc Hoffmann” 3 May 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2012
  5. ^ A word from the founder” Official Tour du Valat site. Retrieved 21 August 2012
  6. ^ Genealogical tree of the Hoffmann family.
  7. ^ MAVA’s beginnings” Official MAVA foundation site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  8. ^ Download CV Luc Hoffmann” Official Tour du Valat site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  9. ^ “Emanuel Hoffmann” Amerikanische Schweizer Zeitung New York October 26, 1932.
  10. ^ Paul Sacher” The Economist 3 June 1999. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  11. ^ Lukas Hoffmann and Hugo Wyss (1941) “Der Durchzug der Strandvögel in der Umgebung Basels” Der Ornithologische Beobachter pp. 144-160.
  12. ^ Hans Lukas Hoffmann (1953) “Form und Entstehung des Zeichnungsmusters dunenjunger Flußseeschwalben (Sterna hirundo)” Rev. Suisse Zool. Vol 60 pp. 653–706.
  13. ^ “Daria Hoffmann 1925-2002”
  14. ^ Alexis Schwarzenbach (2011) “Saving the World’s Wildlife: WWF, the First 50 Years” Profile Books, p. 42, ISBN 978-1846685309
  15. ^ WWF in the 1960s” Official WWF site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  16. ^ Geoffrey Matthews (1993) “The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: Its History and Development” Ramsar Convention Bureau, ISBN 2-940073-00-7
  17. ^ Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands” Official Ramsar Convention Bureau site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  18. ^ A word from the founder” Official Tour du Valat site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  19. ^ Association pour le Cheval de Przewalski” Official TAKH site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  20. ^ WWF-Mitbegründer Luc Hoffmann für Lebenswerk geehrt
  21. ^ Society for the Protection of Prespa” Official WWF-Greece site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  22. ^ La Fondation” Official La Fondation Internationale du Banc d’Arguin site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  23. ^ Learn more about the foundation” Official MAVA Foundation site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  24. ^ Hans Conrad Peyer (1996) Roche: A Company History 1896 to 1996 Roche p. 167 ISBN 3-907770-59-5.
  25. ^ Catherine Borras “AAAS Council Meeting, 1981” Science February 27, 1981, Vol. 211, No. 4485, p. 922.
  26. ^ Download CV Luc Hoffmann” Official Tour du Valat site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  27. ^ The Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal” Official WWF site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  28. ^ Recipients of the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal for distinguished service in international conservation” Official IUCN site. Retrieved 21 August 2012.