Honorary Member - Prof. Dr. H.J. Keuning

Honorary member Prof. dr. H.J. Keuning

(1904 - 1985)

Honorary member since the 9th of december, 1972

Our second honorary member, Hendrik Jacob Keuning, was one of the founders of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. He earned the title of Professor in the field of economic and human geography in 1948. He retired in 1974.    

Keuning was born in Veendam and spent most of his youth here. He was the only child of Hendrik Keuning (1859-1923) and Geesjen Hazewinkel Puister (1862-1912). After finishing school, Keuning went on to study history in Groningen. 

Keuning left Groningen in 1925 to pursue studies in human and physical geography in Utrecht. While studying there, he also was a board member of the local study association V.U.G.S. (Vereniging van Utrechtse Geografie Studenten) in 1927-1928. 

He successfully took his doctoral exam in 1930, which meant that he was now academically proficient in three fields of study: human geography, physical geography, and history.

In 1933 Keuning promoted cum laude on his thesis about the Groninger Veenkoloniën. In the following years he wrote many scientific articles on the subjects of historical and economic geography. From 1937 until 1948 Keuning was employed at the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek as the head of the department of trade and transit statistics. This didn’t stop him from working on multiple publications. By the time the second world war was over, Keuning was the human geographer with the highest number of publications in the Netherlands.


The Faculty of Economics in Groningen was founded in 1948. One of the subjects that was considered as an obligatory part of economics, was the field of economic geography. Keuning was chosen as the professor for this subject. Eventually the university decided that Keuning was also the right person to teach courses on human geography. He started teaching human geography in 1950. At that time there was only one student attending. As the years went by, the amount of human geography students grew. This resulted in an expansion of subjects being taught and also an increase of staff members, who supported Keuning.

Keuning ultimately retired in 1974 and passed away in 1985. Besides the fact that Ibn Battuta honored his memory by making him a honorary member in 1972, his name also lives on through the existence of the Alumni Association of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences (Professor Keuning Vereniging), which was founded in 2007.