Science historian Dr. Patricia Faasse has been presented with the Boerhaave Biography Prize for her book on Johanna Westerdijk, the first female professor in the Netherlands. Westerdijk was Professor by Special Appointment of Phytopathology at Utrecht University from 1917 to 1952. The jury selected Faasse’s book from “... a rich harvest of 18 titles and a shortlist of six very excellent biographies”, in the words of jury Chairperson, Dr. Frans van Lunteren. The prize is awarded once every three years.
Westerdijk was an expert in the field of plant diseases and fungi, and was the founder of the former Central Bureau for Fungi Cultures, currently the CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre at the Uithof. According to Faasse, she was an outspoken personality who paid no heed to conventions regarding feminine role expectations. As a professor, she acted as ‘one of the boys’ in a lab full of women. Faasse therefore gave her book the fitting title: ‘Een beetje opstandigheid. Johanna Westerdijk. De eerste vrouwelijke hoogleraar van Nederland’ (‘A Little Rebelliousness. Johanna Westerdijk, The First Female Professor in the Netherlands, Atlas Contact, 2012).
Descartes Centre and K.F. Hein Foundation
Faasse is a senior researcher at the Rathenau Institute. Until 2012, she was affiliated with the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science and the Humanities at Utrecht University. Her research for the biography was funded in part by the Descartes Centre and the KF. Hein Foundation, which is a fund with a warm relationship to Utrecht University that provides a generous grant each year for the benefit of university projects.
Starting this year, the Faculty of Science has offered Westerdijk Fellowships for talented female researchers. A fellowship includes five-year tenure track positions for lecturers and associate lecturers. At the moment, the first two applications for the Fellowships are under consideration.
Boerhaave Biography Prize
The Boerhaave Biography Prize is an initiative by the Royal Netherlands Academy of the Arts and Sciences and Museum Boerhaave, as a recognition for the increasing importance of the genre ‘biography’ in the history of science. The prize is awarded once every three years. In 2012, the prize was awarded to Kees Schuyt for his book, ‘Het spoor terug: J.B. Charles / W.H. Nagel 1910 – 1983 (Balans, 2010)’. The prize includes a medallion and a monetary award of € 1,500.
The Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science and the Humanities is a collaborative effort by all of the faculties at Utrecht University. The Descartes Centre contributes to social and political debate by critically reflecting on the foundations and dissemination of scientific knowledge, and the role played by rhetoric in the process. Visit: http://www.uu.nl/descartes-centre.