Organisation - January 23, 2019

Spinoza laureates join Walk of Fame

Roelof Kleis

The fame level of the Walk of Fame on campus has increased considerably. The four Wageningen Spinoza laureates unveiled their own tiles during a snow storm.

Willem de Vos leaning over his tile. Behind him, Marten Scheffer. On the left, John van der Oost (crouching) and Marcel Dicke. © Sven Menschel

The ceremony was short and plain. On the mark of rector magnificus Arthur Mol, Marten Scheffer, Willem de Vos, John van der Oost and Marcel Dicke lifted the wooden lids off their own tiles. The black tiles mention their name and expertise, as well as the year in which each of them won the Spinoza Prize. The Spinoza Prize is the highest Dutch scientific distinction.

The prize was established by NWO in 1995. For its first award, Wageningen had to wait until 2007, the year in which entomologist Marcel Dicke received one. Microbiologist Willem de Vos (2008) and aquatic ecologist Marten Scheffer (2009) completed the superb trio. It remained silent for quite some time, until microbiologist John van der Oost was awarded one last year.

It is a pity they are all men.
Rector magnificus Arthur Mol

Four top scientists of whom the organisation is very proud, Rector Mol recalled in his short speech. He does think that ‘it is a pity they are all men’. Mol would like to also have a tile for a female Spinoza laureate on the walk. But he remained silent upon the question of whether it is to be expected. Absolutely no announcements are made about nominations.

The initiative to honour the four Spinoza laureates with tiles came from Arianne van Ballegooij of the Wageningen University Fund. According to her, the true stars of Wageningen science were missing on the path of honour. The idea was received positively by the Executive Board, which meant that Hasper Natuursteen in Heteren could start chipping away at the stones.

Left to right: Marten Scheffer, John van der Oost, Willem de Vos and Marcel Dicke. © Sven Menschel
Left to right: Marten Scheffer, John van der Oost, Willem de Vos and Marcel Dicke. © Sven Menschel

The Walk of Fame was started in 2013. In theory, anyone who has made a significant contribution to WUR is eligible for a tile on the path between Atlas and Orion. In practice, the path has not really come to life yet. Former rector Martin Kropff was given a tile. And so have several rather less-known people, like Petra Naber and Claudius van de Vijver.

The path also includes tiles that remind of various events, such as the disbanding of staff association O&O (Ontwikkeling & Ontspanning – Development and Relaxation), the establishment of the Wageningen Soil Network and the commissioning of Orion. That “fame” along the walk is not that impressive. In that sense, the four Spinoza stars honour the walk somewhat better. On a side note: it was of short duration. Shortly after the unveiling, the tiles became as white as the surroundings.

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