Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia


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Malaysia’s Great Botanist: The Discoverer of 56 New Species of Tropical Trees
Dr Engkik Soepadmo began his Malaysian academic career in Tropical Botany at the University of Malaya in 1968, later becoming an Associate Professor and eventually the Professor of Ecology.  

Raised in a kampung environment, his childhood curiosity and observation of trees and plants around his home laid the foundation for his later career in ecology. 

Dr Soepadmo’s education began in Solo, Indonesia, and upon graduating in 1955, he joined an intensive undergraduate training program at Bogor’s College of Biology, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Taxonomic Botany. This period instilled in him the importance of understanding plant diversity and ecosystem conservation. 

Following a stint as a junior botanist at the Herbarium Bogoriense, he pursued postgraduate studies at the University of Cambridge, earning his PhD in July 1966. This was followed by a two-year research fellowship at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.  

Pioneering Contributions to Botanical and Ecological Knowledge
Recognising Malaysia as the ideal place for his academic career, Dr Soepadmo developed and implemented various botanical and ecological courses, contributing to the training of young scientists in tackling scientific and managerial issues pertinent to the conservation and sustainable use of tropical forest biological resources. 

Dr Soepadmo's prolific career includes over 100 papers in internationally refereed journals, books, and research materials. His early works include the exploration of Southeast Asian tree species such as Fagaceae (oak and chestnut family) and Ulmaceae (elm family) in the form of monographs, as well as editing and authoring the seven volumes of the Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak (1995–2011) which details accounts of 2,165 native tree species, of which 267 are new discoveries.  

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Collaboration is Key in Conservation Efforts
Actively involved in regional and international collaborations, Dr Soepadmo contributed to research and training programs, such as the Malaysian International Biological Programme (IBP) and the Mangrove Research and Management Project in Southeast Asia. He also played a key role in the establishment of Protected Forest Areas in Malaysia, emphasising the importance of long-term ecological research. 

​​In recognition of his contributions to Southeast Asia’s plant biodiversity knowledge, six plant species now bear his name: Actinodaphne soepadmoi Julia (Lauraceae), Aglaia soepadmoi C.M. Pannell (Meliaceae), Cinnamomum soepadmoi Kostermans (Lauraceae), Ficus soepadmoi Kochummen (Moraceae), Syzygium soepadmoi P.S. Ashton (Myrtaceae) and Vatica soepadmoi P.S. Ashton (Dipterocarpaceae). 

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As the Coordinator and Chief Editor of the Tree Flora of Sabah and Sarawak Project at FRIM, he guided and enhanced the research and managerial skills of over 30 young Malaysian research officers in FRIM, Forest Department of Sabah, and Forest Department of Sarawak. The project received recognition as the best research project by the FRIM Board in 1996 and 2007. In 2009, FRIM nominated Dr. Soepadmo for the prestigious Blue Planet Prize, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to scientific research addressing global environmental issues. 

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The information in this award recipient's profile is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the time the award was presented. Any subsequent changes, updates, or developments in the individual's life or achievements may not be reflected in this profile. 

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