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Gerrit Berkhoff

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Name  Gerrit Berkhoff
Role  Chemist

Died  1996
Education  Leiden University
Gerrit Berkhoff httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

Gerrit (Gé) Berkhoff (Wijhe 9 July 1901 – Oosterbeek 27 February 1996) was a Dutch chemist and the first Rector Magnificus of the University of Twente, The Netherlands.


Gerrit Berkhoff httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons99


The son of primary school principal Gerrit Berkhoff (1868–1959) and Martha Severs (1872–1949), Berkhoff studied Chemistry at Leiden University. Here he obtained in 1929 the doctor's degree with his Ph-D dissertation Osmose van ternaire vloeistoffen (Osmosis of ternary fluids). As a student he worked for four years as a laboratory-assistant for inorganic chemistry.


In 1929 Berkhoff started his career as a research chemist at DSM (Dutch State Mines). During the nineteen thirties, he supervised the development of fertilizers for the Nitrogen Fixation Plant (Stikstofbindings Bedrijf (SBB)). His publications on the crystallisation of ammonium nitrate date from this period. His visionary and social talents led to the changing from incremental research (responding to the competition) to innovative research (taking the initiative). This resulted in 1940 in the foundation of the Central Laboratory (Centraal Laboratorium (CL)), of which he became Director. His journeys to the USA, immediately after WW2, meant to look at diversification options, enabled DSM to start the production of caprolactam, the raw material needed for the enkalon or nylon 6 textile fibre of the AKU, now part of AkzoNobel. Until his departure in 1961, he was CEO of all DSM's Research and Development Divisions, which under his supervision became highly successful.

University of Twente

In 1961 Berkhoff was entrusted by the Minister for Education to start preparations for the third Technological University College in The Netherlands in Twente, now the University of Twente. Two years later he was appointed as the first Rector Magnificus. Under his supervision the University of Twente became innovative in various areas. New was the in The Netherlands unknown student campus-accommodation, the integration of Engineering and the Social sciences (now called: High tech, human touch) and the launching of a Bachelor’s Degree. The purpose of the bachelor's degree was to encourage Dutch industry to employ young Bachelor graduates instead of older Master graduates. The concept turned out to be not viable. He ended his speech held on the occasion of the festive opening in 1964 by Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard by using the words William of Orange spoke in 1574 on the occasion of the opening of the first Dutch University in Leiden: “That this University College may grow into a lasting fundament and support of freedom, is our sincerest wish”. In 1967 he left the University. In his honour the Berkhoff Chair was installed in 1999 and in 2010 the Berkhoff Hall was opened for academic ceremonies.

Royal Honours

  • Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau (1957)
  • Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion (1967)
  • References

    Gerrit Berkhoff Wikipedia

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