Oct 19

Isabella Diederiks-Verschoor (1915 – 2017)

Professor Dr Isabella H. Ph. Diederiks-Verschoor
President Emerita, IISL

1915 – 2017

Prof. Dr Isabella Diederiks-Verschoor passed away on 17 October 2017 at the age of 102. She was born in Amersfoort, the Netherlands on 29 July 1915. She studied law at Leiden University and practised law in Amsterdam for six years. In 1943 she defended her PhD thesis on the 1938 Brussels Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to Assistance and Salvage of Aircraft at Sea at the University of Utrecht. She was appointed as a lecturer there in 1953, and was professor of air and space law from 1979 until her retirement in 1984. One year later, she joined the initiative of her colleague at Leiden University, Professor Henri (Or) Wassenbergh, and became Vice-Chair of the newly established International Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University. She served in that capacity until the early 1990s, after which she became honorary board member.

She was one of the founders of the field of space law, and of the International Institute of Space Law. She presented at the first Colloquium in 1958 in The Hague, was IISL’s President from 1973-1990, and thereafter became its first President Emerita. She managed the Institute with a human touch and was always able to unite and to achieve consensus, which was not always an easy task during the early days of the Space Age. She received the IISL’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, during the International Astronauticial Congress held in Amsterdam.

Professor Diederiks-Verschoor presented numerous papers during the IISL Colloquia, which are published in the IISL Proceedings. Her book “An Introduction to Air Law” was published by Kluwer in 1982 and is currently in its 10th edition. Her other seminal book, “An Introduction to Space Law” was published in 1993 and its third edition came out in 2008. Both books have been translated into many languages and still serve as a reference for students all over the world.

In 1981 she presented a Course at The Hague Academy of International Law on “Similarities with and differences between air and space law, primarily in the field of private international law”, which was published in the Collected Courses of the Academy. She was instrumental in the establishment of Kluwer’s journal “Air Law” in 1975. The scope of the journal was later extended to cover also space law and was renamed “Air and Space Law”. Prof. Diederiks-Verschoor served many years on its editorial board, and was thereafter appointed as honorary member.

Prof. Diederiks-Verschoor loved teaching and was loved by her many students. She lectured abroad extensively, traveling for many weeks on end in for example Africa, Australia, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. She welcomed students to her home in Baarn to consult her collection of books and articles on air and space law and invited them for dinner. She was always willing to advise students on their LLM and PhD theses and encouraged them to accompany her to conferences, thus facilitating their entry into the world of space law. She will be remembered as such by numerous students from all over the world.

Since 2001, she is also remembered each year through the IISL “Diederiks-Verschoor Award”, presented by the Board of Directors for the best IISL Colloquium paper by an author not older than 30 years and who has not published more than five papers in the IISL Proceedings.

Prof. Diederiks-Verschoor was an icon of space law, a dedicated teacher, an academic role model for women and above all, a faithful friend to countless space law academics, practitioners and students from all over the world. Her warm personality will be missed by us all.

Tanja Masson-Zwaan, President Emerita
Kai-Uwe Schrogl, President

A condolence book is open: http://avanpijpen.nl/condoleanceregister?register=isabella-henrietta-philepina-verschoor

The very first IISL Colloquium in 1958 in The Hague – with Dr Smirnoff, Eugene Pepin, Isabella Diederiks-Verschoor, Andrew Haley and Dr Gerlach.


On this photo taken in 1988 in Mexico, you can see two former IISL Presidents: Isabella Diederiks-Verschoor (President from 1973-1990) and Judge Manfred Lachs of the ICJ (President from 1990-1993). 

The IISL at the IAC in Malaga, 1989


IAC Malaga — featuring in the photo: Michael Potter, Isabella Diederiks-Verschoor, Nandasiri Jasentuliyana, Tanja Masson-Zwaan, Frans Von Der Dunk and JoAnn Clayton Townsend, Eilene Galloway, Gyula Gal, Andrei Terekhov, Peter Haanappel, Hanneke van Traa, Bill Wirin, Harry Tuinder, David Reibel.