Josef Eduard Breburda was born in Karvina/Silesia near Mährisch Ostrau (Moravská Ostrava) on October 7, 1931. His ancestors lived in Prague/Czechoslovakia.
As firstborn of three children to a school principal his childhood was spent peacefully. From early childhood on he helped the farmers, spent time with Czech children from Prague to study German with them and frequently accompanied his father on his hunting trips. His whole life he loved to pick mushrooms. When World War II broke out, his Uncle, a Catholic mayor, was arrested and sent to the Concentration Camp in Dachau. His father endured many difficulties during Nazi occupation and was told to get divorced from his wife, who was Polish. However, that helped her and her three children to remain, when the ethnic German population was expelled from Silesia in 1945.
His father Gustav never become a Nazi-Party member, but joined the German Army and was sent to Russia. In 1944 Gustav was installed as a first Lieutenant in Metz/France where in October he led his company to peacefully surrender to the American troops and thereby saved the live of 120 German soldiers. Gustav was held in an officer’s prison camp in Scotland until January 1947.
At the end of the war, Josef escaped being kidnapping and sent to a Russian labor camp in Siberia in the last moment. He was already on a truck but jumped off without being noticed. He never saw the other “passengers” again.
After the war, Josef was sent to a Czech school, even though he did not know the language. He was not allowed to speak German any more. From that moment on, his mother only spoke Czech with him. To support his siblings and mother, Josef started to work after school in agriculture and took the nightshifts in a coal-mine, until he got permission from the American Embassy in Prague to leave the already communist Czechoslovakia in October 1948.
He crossed the border into West Germany as a refugee.
For a short time he attended a Catholic Bishops High School in Germany. Early 1949 he decided to leave school to work as a farm hand. In 1952 he became a State Examined farmer and was under a few graduates who were allowed to go to University to study Agriculture. He financed himself working in many jobs, including a brewery and in construction. In 1955 he graduated as a Master of Agricultural Sciences and received his Ph.D. in 1958.
From 1958 to 1964 he worked as an Assistant Scientist at the Institute for Continental Agrarian and Economic Research at the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen/ West Germany. 1959-1960 he was the first exchange scientist of the Federal Republic of Germany at the Lomonossov-University in Moscow, Soviet Union. In 1965 he graduated with a second doctorate (Dr. habil.) from the Agricultural Department of the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen. In 1967 he became a professor of Soil Science and Soil Conservation in the Agricultural Department. From 1972 to 1979 and 1985 to 1990 he was the Director of the Center for Continental Agrarian and Economic Research. From 1972 to 1973 he was the Dean of the Department of Environment Conservation. From 1976 to 1977 he was the Dean of the Department of Applied Biology and Environment Conservation. From 1985 to 1986 he was the Director of the Institute of Soil Science and Soil Conservation. From 1993 to 1995 he was the Director of the Tropical Institute. From 1989 to 1999 he was the partnership representative from the University of Giessen to the University of Kazan/Russia.
He spend a lifelong career as a devoted teacher, a unique expert in Soil Geography of Eurasia and North America, Soil Erosion, Soil Conservation, Desertification, Salinization (Europe, Russia, China, India, Mongolia, Central Asia, North-Africa), Quartarnary Geology (North-Eurasia and North-America) at the Agriculture and Environmental School, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany; he organized multidisciplinary projects, funding, preparing, operating on Soil Erosion (South-East-China), Soil Conservation (Tatarstan, Russia), Desertification (Turkmenistan and North Africa), Soil Salinization (Northwest- China and North-India), Arctic-Soils (Siberia/Russia) on Global Warming.
He led soil research projects in North Africa, Central Asia, Siberia, China and India, financed by the European Union, the Max-Planck Society and Federal Ministries of Germany. Professor Breburda organized and led 20 scientific excursions to Eastern Europe, all parts of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
He supervised the dissertations of 20 Ph.D. students and master degree projects of numerous students. He has published over 200 scientific papers in technical periodicals as well as 23 books on the topic of soil erosion and conservation.
In 1987 Professor Breburda was appointed an Honorary Professor (Prof. h. c.) of the Chinese Academy of Science (Academia Sinica) in Nanijng/China, because of his successful soil conservation projects in Southeast China.
In 1999 he was appointed an Honorary Doctor (Dr. h.c.) of the State University in Kazan, Russia.
In 1998 he received the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Roman Herzog. This is the highest civilian honor awarded by the German government. He received this award for both improving the scientific relationship between Germany, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe after World War II and helping to create a good relationship with Mainland China.
He was a member of the “Collegium Carolinum”, a scientific association of University Professors who came originally from Bohemia and Moravia.
Besides being a founding member and Director of the Institute for Continental Agrarian and Economic Research at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen from 1958 to 1997 he became a visiting Professor of the Czechoslovakian Academy of Sciences for a research stay at the Amelioration-Institute in Prague-Zbraslav in 1969 and was a guest Professor at the Dept. of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 2001 to 2002.
He developed excellent relations with his communistic colleagues of China and former Soviet Union and all over the World. Next to the German Language, he knew Latin, spoke English, Russian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Croatian, and French.
His academic students called him Saint Josef. He was also known as the flying Professor.
He was a renowned scientist; a beloved husband and a loving father for his son Univ.- Professor Christian Breburda MD, Ph.D. and his daughter Edith Breburda DVM, Ph.D.