The Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley recently joined Flickr Commons, an ongoing catalogue of public photo archives, and they shared captivating images from a 20th-century globetrotting scientist. According to UC Berkeley, the Belgium-born Urbain J. Kinet avidly explored “with the eye of a researcher, studying the world through the lens of Geology, Volcanology, Biology, Phytogeography, Climatology, Glaciology, Ecology, Lichenology, etc.”

Leticia Roncero wrote on the Flickr blog this month that the Department of Geography, which started in 1898, is “the oldest university geography department in the English-speaking world,” and has been a leader in “the field of human and cultural geography.” Kinet’s photographs are very much a document of human interactions with the world, from looming Easter Island heads to a geothermal plant at a Philippines volcano.

Kinet died in 1989, and his photographs were cataloged by his wife Gertraude. Beginning in 1938 when he took a geographic research position in the Belgian Congo, he was always interested in visiting landscapes, museums, and places of cultural life, whether during World War II when he was drafted to lead a team through the equatorial rain forest and East African Highlands, or when he later fled Congo, after working at the Institute of Scientific Research in Central Africa, and took a position at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. There’s even a Mount Kinet named for him in Antarctica, where he spent time on a research expedition. UC Berkeley shared a quote from Dr. Heyneman from his eulogy, stating the scientist “belonged to a vanishing breed of tropical fieldworker and scholar who spent years observing, collecting, and studying under the most isolated, severe, and primitive conditions — and relishing every minute of it!”

Selections from the Urbain J. Kinet Collection are below, to stoke some of your own wanderlust to explore this vast, diverse planet.

Moai head near an Easter Island fishing village (via Urbain J. Kinet Collection, Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley/Flickr)

Bottles at the shrine of the Difunta Correa, a folk saint who died in the desert but whose baby survived at her breast, outside of Puerto Natales, Chile (via Urbain J. Kinet Collection, Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley/Flickr)

Old locomotive at the Railroad Museum, Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada (via Urbain J. Kinet Collection, Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley/Flickr)

Tiwi Geothermal Power Pilot Plant at the foot of the Malinao volcano, Luzon Island, Philippines (via Urbain J. Kinet Collection, Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley/Flickr)

View more from the Urbain J. Kinet Collection at the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley on Flickr Commons.

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.

Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...