Workshop: Scientist Biographies (Delft, 9 March 2018)

Science is produced by people. This makes biographical research almost always an integral part of the history of science. The scientific biography, or rather the scientist’s biography, is a genre that has always accompanied the writing of the history of science.

But although the genre has recently received an interesting amount of coverage, its actual execution often remains obscured. Recent examples include discussions around the concept of the “scientific persona” (e.g., Herman Paul et al., (2016) “Scholarly Personae: Repertoires and Performances of Academic Identity”, Issue 131(4) of the Low Countries Historical Review) and surrounding the significance of biographies for defining intellectual history (.e.g, Robert J. Richards (2017), “The Role of Biography in Intellectual History”. KNOW 1(2), 295-318)

In order to make this work visible, we are organizing a workshop and have invited biographers and potential biographers to present their research in a series of elevator pitches. In addition, we would like to exchange ideas with participants about issues that we encounter while performing biographical research.

This first meeting primarily aims at getting people acquainted with one another’s work and with issues that are part of biographical research. Everyone that is interested is invited to participate and entry is free, but we do ask you to announce your presence by sending an e-mail to Ilja Nieuwland (

Venue, date, and time

TU Delft, University Library, Oranjezaal. 9 March 2018, 12.30-17.00 hrs.


  • 12.30 Room open: Oranjezaal, University Library, TU Delft
  • 13.00 Introduction (Ilja Nieuwland & Abel Streefland)
  • 13.15 Case study: Eric Jorink about Jan Swammerdam (naturalist, 1637-1680)
  • 13.45 Discussion
  • 14.00 Coffee
  • 14.30 Elevator pitches
    • 14.30 Susanna Bloem (Utrecht), Paul Hugenholtz (psychiatrist, 1903-1987)
    • 14.45 Danny Beckers (VU), Hans and Suzanna Freudenthal (mathematician and educator, 1905-1990 and 1908-1986, respectively)
    • 15.00 Ab Flipse (VU), Jan Lever (biologist, 1922-2010)
    • 15.15 Catarina Madruga (Universidade de Lisboa), José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage (zoologist, 1823-1907)
    • 15.30 Ilja Nieuwland (Huygens ING / Universität Greifswald), Otto Jaekel (paleontologist and geologist, 1863-1929)
    • 15.45 Milo van de Pol (Huygens ING / Universiteit Leiden), Philip Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen (natuurvorser en politicus, 1613-1693)
    • 16.00 Chaokang Tai (Amsterdam), Anton Pannekoek (astronomer and social activist, 1873-1960)
    • 16.15 Rolf ter Sluis (Groningen), Leendert Eerland (surgeon, 1897-1977)
  • 16.45 Closing discussion
  • 17.00 Drinks (off site).

Image: assistants of the Harvard College Observatory History, ca. 1900.