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The University of Amsterdam (UvA) celebrated its 380th Dies Natalis (anniversary) on Friday, 6 January 2012. In the opening address, Rector Magnificus Prof. Dymph van den Boom spoke about promoting the distinctive features of Dutch universities. The philosopher Daniel Dennett then gave the Dies Natalis speech titled ‘Curiosity’.

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) celebrated its 380th Dies Natalis (anniversary) on Friday, 6 January 2012. In the opening address, Rector Magnificus Prof. Dymph van den Boom spoke about promoting the distinctive features of Dutch universities, the role of the government in doing this and the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) profile. The philosopher Daniel Dennett then gave the Dies Natalis speech titled ‘Curiosity’. After a musical interlude, technological innovator Martin van den Brink, macroeconomist Willem Buiter, philosopher Dennett and theoretical physicist Peter Zoller all received an honorary doctorate from the UvA. The afternoon ended with the presentation of the 'UvA Lecturer of the Year 2011' prize to Gerben Moerman (Sociology).

In her opening speech titled Een programma om je vingers bij af te likken (A programme brimming with potential), Rector Magnificus Dymph van den Boom discussed how Dutch universities are trying to enhance their profiles; a process which is currently in full swing. She outlined the UvA’s profile, and examined the roles of the Review Committee and the government. According to Van den Boom, the Review Committee still has a lot of preparatory work to do before Dutch university profiles can be properly assessed. The Review Committee’s role with respect to universities and the government is still being explored.

Dies speech

Under the title Curiosity, Professor Daniel Dennett gave the Dies speech on the occasion of the UvA’s 380th anniversary. Our current knowledge is based on the inexhaustible curiosity that our ancestors have displayed. Dennett explored the grey area between exploration and curiosity. People are curious. Evolution is an exploratory process, but the term exploration also has a strong mentalistic connotation. Although the human race is the champion when it comes to curiosity, Dennett also pointed to the old maxim ‘Curiosity killed the cat.’

Honorary doctorates

During the Dies celebrations, honorary doctorates were awarded to technological innovator Martin van den Brink, macroeconomist Willem Buiter, philosopher Daniel Dennett and theoretical physicist Peter Zoller. Van den Brink received an honorary doctorate because he has been instrumental in the immense success of the semiconductor industry. Buiter received an honorary doctorate for his distinguished macroeconomic research and his contribution to macroeconomic policy. Dennett was lauded for his pioneering role in changing the way philosophers view the human brain. Finally, Zoller received the honorary doctorate in recognition of his groundbreaking work on lasers and atoms.

UvA Lecturer of the Year

The afternoon ended with the presentation of the UvA Lecturer of the Year 2011 prize. The nominees were: David Rijser (Latin), Dorothee te Riele (Spanish), Gabor Linthorst (Medicine), Jook Walraven (Physics and Astronomy) and Gerben Moerman (Sociology). After the jury report was read out, jury president Tessa van Ligten (Central Student Council) and the Rector Magnificus presented the UvA Lecturer of the Year 2011 prize to Sociology professor Gerben Moerman