Cornelis Dirk Andriesse

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Cornelis Dirk Andriesse
Cornelis Dirk Andriesse
Born (1939-12-21) 21 December 1939 (age 76)
Residence Arnhem
Fields astrophysics, nuclear safety, history of science
Institutions Kapteyn Observatory, KEMA, University of Utrecht
Alma mater Delft University of Technology
Known for scientific biography of Christiaan Huygens

Cornelis Dirk (Cees) Andriesse (Leeuwarden, 21 December 1939) is a Dutch physicist, writer and historian of science. Internationally he is best known for his scientific biography of Christiaan Huygens.


Andriesse studied applied physics at Delft University of Technology, where he specialized in radiation physics. He obtained his engineer's degree in 1965. In 1969 he received his PhD degree from the same university with a thesis on the scattering of neutrons in gaseous argon-36.


He then worked at the Kapteyn Observatory in Roden, part of the University of Groningen. In 1978 he was the first to calculate the radiation of interstellar dust with a fluctuating temperature.[1] Only after the turn of the century Infrared observations from space showed the calculated spectrum to be characteristic of all galaxies. In 1979 Andriesse came up with a theory for the mass loss of stars.[2]

Fluctuation Theory[edit]

There are two classic explanations for the mass loss of stars by stellar winds. For stars of high luminosity radiation pressure is the driving force; for fainter stars like the Sun the stellar wind is driven by mechanical effects such as shock waves or magnetic fields. To what level a stellar wind swells, depends on accidental features of the mechanism. The strength of the wind is not easily related to the basic properties of the star (mass, radius, and luminosity).

Andriesse's fluctuation theory is a metatheory for the two mechanisms mentioned. It does not matter much which mechanism occurs in a certain star, as long as that mechanism meets certain requirements: the stellar wind must take the form of puffs that are so pronounced that they affect the equilibrium between gravitational and thermal forces of the star as a whole. Only after the equilibrium is regained, a subsequent puff may take place.

The fluctuation theory establishes a clear link between the strength of the stellar wind and the basic properties of the star, which, as mentioned above, the mechanisms by themselves cannot establish. Metatheories are not very common in astrophysics. Also fluctuations are usually ignored rather than taken as a starting point. When the fluctuation theory, which Andriesse still sees as his best work,[3] did not gain much acceptance, Andriesse left astrophysics in disappointment in 1980.

Nuclear Energy[edit]

He joined KEMA in Arnhem to investigate the safety of nuclear reactors. He was involved in melting experiments with tiny amounts of nuclear fuel.[4] While he was working on this the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred. What Andriesse and his student R. H. J. Tanke were doing with great caution on miniature scale in a safe laboratory happened there on a large scale outdoors.


In 1989 Andriesse was appointed professor of electricity supply at the University of Utrecht. This position was paid by KEMA. Commotion arose, when he expressed opinions about the safety of nuclear power plants, which were too negative in the eyes of KEMA.[5] Eventually the conflict was resolved by Andriesse moving to a position financed by the University of Utrecht. As professor of energy physics, he investigated why photovoltaic cells are more efficient in using solar energy than plants. Molecular transport in plant cells turned out to be the limiting factor.[6] For the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands he studied the Pebble Bed Reactor.[7] In 2002 Andriesse formally retired. He remained active at the Institute for the History and Foundations of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (IGG) of the University of Utrecht for several more years.

Public debate[edit]

On many occasions Andriesse has taken part in the public debate. Through the years he often asked attention for deficiencies in the techniques with which radioactive materials are treated.[8] In late 2007 he defended Nobel Prize winner Peter Debye, when there were concerns about his behavior in Nazi Germany.[9] In 2011, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, he could be heard in the Dutch radio program Argos saying that the Borssele Nuclear Power Station had escaped disaster more than once.[10]


After age forty Andriesse started to write fiction for a general audience. In his novels, he steps back from exact science and sketches poetic, often erratic images of a disordered world. His first historical novel "Titan kan niet slapen" ((English) "Titan cannot sleep") got a place on the longlist of the AKO Literatuurprijs in 1994.

Books available in English[edit]

Private Life[edit]

Cornelis Dirk Andriesse lived in several Dutch cities with his family (he has got three sons). In 2010 he moved from Zeist to Arnhem, where he now lives with his wife, Engeltje.


  1. ^ Platt Particles in M17?
  2. ^ Fluctuation Theory of the Mass Flux from the Stars – summarized in C. Chiosi & A. Maeder, "The Evolution of Massive Stars", Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 24 (1986), 329-375
  3. ^ A.J. Köbben & H. Tromp, De onwelkome boodschap, Mets, Amsterdam (1999) p. 73: In Groningen he [Andriesse] develops theoretical ideas that give him great satisfaction – years later he is still lyrical about this theory … ‘the best of my achievements.’
  4. ^ R.H.J. Tanke, Mass– and gamma spectrometric measurements of fission products released from overheated, fresh irradiated, uranium dioxide, Journal of Nuclear Materials 188 (1992) 262-272.
  5. ^ The showcase professor (Dutch)
  6. ^ Minimum entropy production in photosynthesis (pdf) additional note
  7. ^ The end of the Pebble Bed Reactor? (Dutch); Technology Assessment HTR – Summary and Conclusions (Dutch)
  8. ^ with emphasis on the treatment of depleted uranium: Trouw, 29 January 2007, and plutonium: Trouw, 24 September 2008 (in collaboration with Egbert Boeker)
  9. ^ Socially skillful and cunning in the Third Reich (Dutch)
  10. ^ "Borssele meermaals ontsnapt aan ramp" (in Dutch). Volkskrant. 26 maart 2011.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]