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Delft, D. van

Delft, D. van

Dirk van Delft, born in Rijnsburg, the Netherlands, in 1951. M.A. from Leiden University. Senior Science Journalist for the NRC Handelsblad, with a special interest in the history of science.

Journalist-in-Residence (1 February 2002 – 30 June 2002)

I came to NIAS as the first Journalist-in-Residence in February 2002. The first thing I did was to forget my newspaper completely and to behave like an historian of science. My aim was to make considerable progress in the writing a full biography of the Dutch low temperature physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926). I succeeded in so far that during my stay at NIAS I passed a point of no return.

Besides reading and writing in my study in Wassenaar, I visited several archives to collect additional material. I finished several chapters on Kamerlingh Onnes’ childhood, his school-years in the town of Groningen, the years he spent as a student of physics and his Wanderjahr at Heidelberg, where he worked with the chemist Robert Bunsen and the physicist Gustav Kirchhoff. These last eighteen months proved to be decisive for Onnes’ career as a physicist.

Of these chapters, three have resulted in a publication or a lecture. In Gewina, a Dutch journal for the history of science, I published my account of the founding (1901) and the early years of the School of Instrument Makers in the Leiden Physical Laboratory of Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (Gewina, 2002, no 3). In The Gids, a Dutch cultural journal, I published an article on the creativity within the Onnes family: “Koude en kunst – opkomst en ondergang van de familie Kamerlingh Onnes” [Cold and art, the rise and fall of the Kamerlingh Onnes family] in the December 2002 issue. And the chapter I wrote about the removal of the Cryogenic Laboratory from the centre of Leiden in 1895, resulted in a lecture I delivered for the Society ‘Oud Leiden’ at the Lakenhal.