ann19055 — Announcement

Lodewijk Woltjer at the 1997 IAU General Assembly in Kyoto
28 August 2019
Lodewijk Woltjer (26 April 1930 – 25 August 2019)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Lodewijk (“Lo”) Woltjer, President of the IAU 1994–1997, one of the most prominent and influential astronomers of his time.

Lo's time as Officer at the IAU was one of change. Together with Jacqueline Bergeron (IAU General Secretary 1991–1994), he pushed for changes in the General Assembly format, introducing the now very successful GA Symposia. He also proposed the Division structure as an overarching structure for the Commissions, which was finalised at the Kyoto GA in 1997. Moreover, he advocated for the introduction of a working group on large facilities in astronomy as a forum to exchange ideas and explore collaborations. All of this and much more was achieved through his characteristically brief but persuasive talks and letters, combined with his persistence and diplomacy.

As Immo Appenzeller, IAU General Secretary 1994–1997 notes: “With Lo we lost a colleague who combined friendliness with dignity, a profound scientific knowledge, and a fine feeling for political obstacles and opportunities. And I personally lost a friend.”

Lo had an enormous influence on the development of our science, and in particular on the progress of international cooperation in astronomy. Besides being IAU President, he was also a former Director General of the European Southern Observatory, founder of the European Astronomical Society, and had a key role in the development of ESA’s Horizon 2000 plans. Just like the IAU, these organisations benefited tremendously from his skilful handling of international issues, and their continued blossoming today is part of his lasting legacy.

Lo obtained his PhD in Leiden (the Netherlands) in 1957 under Jan Oort and subsequently held post-doctoral research positions in Yerkes Observatory and at Princeton. He briefly returned to Leiden as professor before moving to Columbia University in New York in 1964 where he also became Chair of the Astronomy Department. From 1975–1987 he was ESO Director General, and after that worked at the Observatories of Arcetri and Haute-Provence.

Astronomy has lost one of its giants, who will be greatly missed by the astronomical community worldwide.

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 13 500 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.



Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 761
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621

About the Announcement



Lodewijk Woltjer at the 1997 IAU General Assembly in Kyoto
Lodewijk Woltjer at the 1997 IAU General Assembly in Kyoto