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17/01/2008 |

Utrecht University 

Terlouw Commission: ‘Continue using Debye’s name’

The Terlouw Commission has advised the Boards of Utrecht and Maastricht Universities to continue to use Peter Debye’s name for the chemistry and physics institute in Utrecht, and to continue awarding the science prize in Maastricht. Utrecht University has decided to adopt that advice, while Maastricht University will not.
The Commission was set up by the two universities in the spring of 2007, and asked to advice on the use of Debye’s name after the publication of the NIOD report on Peter Debye during the 1933-1945 period. In February 2006, Utrecht and Maastricht universities decided not to use Debye’s name. The universities felt that the portrayal of Debye at the time conflicted with the exemplary function of the institute and the prize.

The Terlouw Commission’s instructions were to advise on the desirability, or lack thereof, of using Debye’s name to designate activities, buildings or sections by Utrecht University, and of cooperating in granting and awarding a science prize by the name of Debye by Maastricht University.

In its advice, the Commission states that it appreciates the universities’ previous decision, but that, based on the NIOD report, ‘since no bad faith on Debye’s part has been demonstrated, his good faith must be assumed.’ The Commission concludes, ‘In our opinion, there are insufficient grounds to strip Debye of his scientific laurels.’

The Board of Utrecht University will follow the advice, and once again name its organisation for chemical and physical research the Debye Institute for NanoMaterials Science. The Board of Maastricht University stands by its earlier judgment.

Composition of the Advisory Commission
The Advisory Commission was made up of the following persons:
Dr J.C. Terlouw, Chair (former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Affairs, Doctor of Mathematics and Physics)
Prof. Dr D. Bosscher (former Rector Magnificus of the University of Groningen, professor of Contemporary History)
Prof. Th. van Boven (emeritus professor of International Law, Maastricht University)
Secretary to the Commission: R. Louw (Secretary of Leiden University)

Further information
Ludo Koks, spokesperson for Utrecht University, +31 (0)6 23 90 72 96,
Jeanine Hermans, spokesperson for Maastricht University, +31 (0)6 46 70 50 09,