Fernando González Bernáldez (Salamanca, 1933 – Madrid, 1992) grew up in Salamanca, where he accompanied his father on walks through the meadows. In his early years he showed great aptitude for drawing and often drew the butterflies which he hunted. He would send the drawings to his father’s former teacher, an entomologist, for their taxonomic determination. This artistic ability would be very useful during his professional life to complement his ideas with notes, sketches, drawings and schemes.
Despite his interest in nature, he began studying law at the University of Salamanca. In 1953, however, he moved to Madrid to study Biological Sciences at Central University and received his bachelor’s degree in 1959.
González Bernáldez was a naturalist by vocation and dedication, from his interest in butterflies as a child to his work as an adult on Madrid grasses. However, his scientific curiosity led him to further investigate the complex and theoretical aspects of the functions and organizations of various ecosystems.
His scientific prestige was based upon his many contributions to terrestrial systems ecology and to various aspects of the relationships between humans and nature. Above all, Bernáldez was highly respected among conservationists and environmentalists for his commitment to defending the environment.
Perhaps his best known work is Ecología y Paisaje (Ecology and Landscape), published in 1981 and reissued in 2011 by the foundation that bears his name. In this book, he synthesizes his extensive ecological culture and his original contributions around the ecological structure of the landscape and the ways in which humans perceive and appreciate it.
González Bernáldez worked at the CSIC, at the University of Seville, and at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He was an ecology professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid from 1975 until his premature death in 1992.
Many of his research subjects (Doñana, Guadarrama, meadows, wetlands…) were also the subject of his concerns as a citizen and as an intellectual who tried to reach politicians and society as a whole. Thus came about his interest in environmental education, which he helped promote and disseminate in Spain as part of a new culture towards the natural environment. In the 1970 ́s and 1980 ́s, the opinion of Fernando González Bernáldez decisively influenced the course of modern environmental awareness in Spain.
The belief that environmental education is key to solving environmental problems led Professor González Bernáldez to take numerous initiatives in the educational field. The dissemination of UNESCO’s recommendations on this subject, in whose preparation it participated, and the first national meetings on environmental education are part of its work. González Bernáldez also initiated the first research aimed at assessing the effects of the application of environmental education programs.
Upon the tenth anniversary of the death of Fernando González Bernáldez (1933-1992), the foundation edited the book Figura con Paisajes (Figure with Landscapes) as a tribute to his legacy. The novel offers a complete overview of his life and work through the memory of his friends and disciples, the commentary of current ecologists on the main lines of his work, and a selection of his own work– all of which is accompanied by abundant graphics, mostly originals by Bernáldez himself. Figura con Paisajes is, in short, a tribute to the scientist whose work is essential knowledge for all those interested in nature and the environment.
Moreover, the Autonomous University of Madrid has dedicated one of its centers to the memory of Professor Bernáldez. This is known as the «Fernando González Bernáldez» Science Library, located on the Cantoblanco campus of the UAM. At the entrance of the center, an information panel explains to users the meaning of this title, briefly summarizing «The legacy of González Bernáldez». On the same campus, a roundabout has also been dedicated to the ecologist which is populated with rockroses and other Mediterranean plants that he loved so dearly.