Robbert Dijkgraaf is to leave his position as president of KNAW (the royal Dutch academy of sciences) next year. He will become director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he will be the first non-native English speaking director of the institute.
In 2009, The Low Countries Yearbook included an article on Dijkgraaf, who is described as “a man of many talents. A brilliant mathematical physicist, he is a passionate champion of his own field of study and a talented populariser who has also made a name for himself as an artist.”
Since May 2008 Dijkgraaf (1960) has been president of the KNAW, an association of top scientists and a variety of institutes, which advises the government on scientific policy. He has given Dutch science a face by frequently appearing in public.
Accompanied by young and talented scientists, he has been a regular contributor to the well-known TV programme De Wereld Draait Door (The world goes on turning). Dijkgraaf is also a columnist for the scientific supplement of the quality Dutch newspaper NRC.
Dijkgraaf sees his departure for Princeton as “a very nice next step in my career, the perfect mix of personal research and administrative and public duties”.
Einstein and Oppenheimer
The Institute for Advanced Study is a multidisciplinary research institute where excellent scientists can do fundamental research on a permanent or temporary basis, in good scientific company and without teaching obligations. Albert Einstein was one of the first members, from 1933 till his death in 1955. Other prominent scientists who stayed there are, for example, the mathematicians Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) and John von Neumann (1903-1957) and cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1926-2006). The physicist Robert Oppenheimer, who led the Manhattan Project in the Second World War, which developed the first atomic bomb, was director of the IAS from 1947 to 1966.
Dijkgraaf succeeds the British physicist Peter Goddard (1945), who became the first non-American director in 2004. Dijkgraaf, himself a mathematical physicist and professor at the University of Amsterdam, hopes to have more time for his own scientific research.