Jan Heijn, physicist at ECN, passed away



It is my sad duty to report that Jan Heijn passed away suddenly last week, and to express my condoleances to and sympathy with his family and friends.

Jan Heijn (indeed, of the extended AH family) was a physicist by training; he spent a significant part of his career at ECN. More recently, however, he became known to many professionals outside his immediate work environment as director of the World Year of Physics in the Netherlands and founding father of the ‘Techniektoenooi'(Technology Tournament). In this Tournament, stimulating physics/technology learning for all grades of elementary school, quite a few of you will have assisted as jurors or in another capacity. We owe him the highest regard and gratitude for these efforts.
Jan was quite a character, with a sharp mind and a strong commitment to enjoying life to the full. One of the pleasant aspects of working with him on the Techniektoernooi were his thoughtful presents and speeches at the end. When he brought us Champagne, it was especially good stuff. Once he brought us each an old Edam cheese. This is a bit smaller and harder than a bowling ball, and so we needed guidance on how to eat it without using an axe and a chainsaw, which he gave in juicy detail. Once he gave us a little book in which a wise but slightly arrogant colleague expounded on our nation’s troubles, which he nicely summarised as: “According to the author, much of our country’s troubles are caused by people not having studied physics.”
But most of all, Jan taught us that the importance and joy of teaching natural science to our young cannot be overstated, and is therefore an activity to be pursued vigorously. I shall remember him for that, and honour his memory by helping to continue his efforts.
Amsterdam, 28 August 2015
Ralph Wijers

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