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The University of Amsterdam (UvA) celebrated its 383rd anniversary (Dies Natalis) on Thursday, 8 January. Before delivering her opening address, Rector Magnificus Dymph van den Boom briefly spoke about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. Sjoerd Repping, professor of Humane Reproductive Biology, delivered the Dies speech, and honorary doctorates were conferred on Chryssa Kouveliotou and Charlotte van Rappard-Boon. The Dies Natalis was officially concluded with the 2014 Lecturer of the Year award, which went to Joris Marée.

Bram Belloni

Van den Boom opened the Dies by mentioning the dramatic events in Paris. 'Our thoughts go out to the victims, their loved ones and French society as a whole. This attack was an onslaught on the freedom of expression and the intellectual liberty we hold so dear: the free spirit, the shaping of opinion, debate, open discourse…..this attack touches on everything we as an academy represent and in which we as a university community believe. These are values that we also need to defend.’

The rector then held her opening address, titled Dwarse Geesten, in which she spoke about the visionaries John Henry Newman and Wilhelm von Humboldt. Van den Boom: ‘I hope people realise that the ‘Western’ university, as founded on the principles of Newman and Von Humboldt, is an exceptionally successful institution. Whatever the kind of policy-driven demands made on the university and the people that comprise it, the university enterprise is in principle one where discoveries cannot be predetermined.' 

Dies Natalis 2015 - Honorary Doctorate Charlotte van Rappard-Boon
Charlotte van Rappard-Boon (Photo: Monique Kooijmans)

Honorary doctorates

During the Dies Natalis, honorary doctorates were conferred on:

  • Dr Chryssa Kouveliotou - Kouveliotou is one of the most influential and best known high-energy astrophysicists on earth. Her work centres on detecting sources of gamma radiation in the universe and interpreting these sightings.
  • Charlotte van Rappard-Boon - Van Rappard-Boon has made an extremely valuable contribution to shaping the overall heritage policy and heritage inspection in the Netherlands as well as to the implementation of international heritage treaties, especially in the field of looted art and illegal art-trading.

Both Kouveliotou and Van Rappard-Boon manifest themselves outside the walls of the university, and have succeeded in connecting science and society.

Dies Natalis 2015 Honorary Doctorate Chryssa Kouveliotou
Chryssa Kouveliotou (Photo: Monique Kooijmans)

Dies speech and Lecturer of the Year award

Sjoerd Repping, professor of Humane Reproductive Biology at the Faculty of Medicine, delivered the Dies speech. The programme was concluded with the 2014 UvA Lecturer of the Year award, which went to economist Joris Marée.  


The musical intermezzo was provided by pianist Daria van den Bercken, who performed two of Handel’s musical pieces. Van den Bercken doesn’t only use the piano to express her fondness for Handel. Use the link below to watch her TEDtalk in Berlin.