Born a farm lad and destined to take over the parental business, it was more or less chance that led Jens Smed to a career of 45 years of dedicated service to ICES, followed by 30-odd years of "retirement" spent studying and producing historical articles about ICES and the pioneers who have made the organization a household name in the world of marine science.
Excellence in the study of physics was the basis for a young leader of the Service Hydrographique, as it was then called. Smed's professional exploits can be read about elsewhere, e.g. in an interview in ICES Insight No. 46, September 2009. For those of us privileged to have worked in the Secretariat when Smed had an office there (he still occupied an office at ICES for six years after his retirement in 1984, creating for his successor a sometimes unwelcome study into the physical laws of friction), a few anecdotal memories may serve to honour our well-esteemed colleague.
In times where efforts are being made to bring oceanography back to ICES it might be of interest to recall the form of respect shown in the past to oceanography, or hydrography as it was then termed, and to people like Jens Smed. The aura of respect that surrounded Smed meant that his closest staff would address him by title as Magister Smed, until the time he decided that Mr Smed would suffice.
Many of the younger staff presently at ICES have experienced this, posting by snailmail a handwritten application when one of Smed's sought-after affordable apartments became available on the overheated housing market of central Copenhagen. Smed lived by one of the fundamental rules of life: If you want something important done properly, do it yourself. All applications were therefore read by Smed himself and a reply returned in the clear handwriting Smed retained throughout his long life. The outcome was often favourable for the applicant, a decision determined by what some may consider old-fashioned moral ethics, exposed to present-day ethics in consultation with ICES former HR Officer Inger Lützhøft.
When the ASC was held in Copenhagen in 2015 ICES staff arranged for Jens Smed, aged 101, to attend the opening reception at the Town Hall. A few of the older generation greeted Smed as a friend, and when one of the first-time participants came with his newborn daughter the President Paul Connolly grabbed the photo opportunity, immortalizing the newest and the oldest living members of ICES community a century apart. A proud moment for Smed – though not normally one to display emotions the twinkle in his eye was unmistakable, as was the sense of a final drop of standard seawater in the other eye. The ends had met.
In fond memory, Inger Lützhøft and Søren Lund
Jens Smed served ICES looking after its hydrographic data for 45 years (1939-1984) while working on the staff of the ICES Secretariat, initially as hydrographical assistant and seven years later as hydrographer. Inger Lützhøft (retired HR Officer) and Søren Lund (technical editor) worked with Smed in the Secretariat from 1978 to 1984.
Jens Smed (101 years) meeting with the youngest conference participant (3 months) at ICES ASC 2015 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: Hjalte Parner.