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Nicolaas Govert de Bruijn

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Nicolaas Govert de Bruijn
Born(1918-07-09)9 July 1918
Died17 February 2012(2012-02-17) (aged 93)
Alma materVrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Known forAutomath
BEST theorem
De Bruijn factor
De Bruijn index
De Bruijn graph
De Bruijn notation
De Bruijn sequence
De Bruijn's theorem
De Bruijn torus
De Bruijn–Erdős theorem
De Bruijn–Erdős theorem (geometry)
de Bruijn–Newman constant
Dickman–de Bruijn function
Moser–de Bruijn sequence
Scientific career
InstitutionsEindhoven University of Technology
Doctoral advisorJurjen Ferdinand Koksma
Doctoral studentsJohannes Runnenburg
Stan Ackermans
Prof. dr. N. G. de Bruyn, 1947

Nicolaas Govert "Dick" de Bruijn (Dutch: [nikoːˈlaːs ˈxoːvərt ˈbrœyn];[1] 9 July 1918 – 17 February 2012) was a Dutch mathematician, noted for his many contributions in the fields of analysis, number theory, combinatorics and logic.[2]


De Bruijn was born in The Hague where he attended elementary school between 1924 and 1930 and secondary school until 1934. He started studies in mathematics at Leiden University in 1936 but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II in 1939. He became a full-time Assistant in the Department of Mathematics of the Technological University of Delft in September 1939 while continuing his studies.[3] He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Leiden in 1941. He received his PhD in 1943 from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam with a thesis entitled "Over modulaire vormen van meer veranderlijken" advised by Jurjen Ferdinand Koksma.[4]

From June 1944 he was a Scientific Associate working in Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven.

He married Elizabeth de Groot on 30 August 1944. The couple had four children: Jorina Aleida (born 19 January 1947), Frans Willem (born 13 April 1948), Elisabeth (born 24 November 1950), and Judith Elizabeth (born 31 March 1963).[3]

De Bruijn started his academic career at the University of Amsterdam, where he was Professor of Mathematics from 1952 to 1960. In 1960 he moved to the Technical University Eindhoven where he was Professor of Mathematics until his retirement in 1984.[2] Among his graduate students were Johannes Runnenburg (1960), Antonius Levelt (1961), S. Ackermans (1964), Jozef Beenakker (1966), W. van der Meiden (1967), Matheus Hautus (1970), Robert Nederpelt Lazarom (1973), Lambert van Benthem Jutting (1977), A. Janssen (1979), Diederik van Daalen (1980), and Harmannus Balsters (1986).[4]

In 1957 he was appointed member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[5] He was Knighted with the Order of the Netherlands Lion.


De Bruijn covered many areas of mathematics. He is especially noted for:

He wrote one of the standard books in advanced asymptotic analysis (De Bruijn, 1958).

In the late sixties, he designed the Automath language for representing mathematical proofs, so that they could be verified automatically (see automated theorem checking). Shortly before his death, he had been working on models for the human brain.


Books, a selection:

  • 1943. Over modulaire vormen van meer veranderlijken
  • 1958. Asymptotic Methods in Analysis, North-Holland, Amsterdam.

Articles, a selection:


  1. ^ In isolation, Govert is pronounced [ˈɣoːvərt].
  2. ^ a b Nicolaas Govert de Bruijn's obituary Archived 2013-04-25 at the Wayback Machine 2012
  3. ^ a b MacTutor History of Mathematics archive: Nicolaas Govert de Bruijn. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-01. Retrieved 2021-02-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b Nicolaas Govert de Bruijn at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ "Nicolaas Govert de Bruijn (1918–2012)" (in Dutch). Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  6. ^ de Bruijn, N.G. (1981). "Algebraic theory of Penrose's non-periodic tilings of the plane. I". Indagationes Mathematicae (Proceedings). 84: 39–52. doi:10.1016/1385-7258(81)90016-0.
  7. ^ de Bruijn, N.G. (1981). "Algebraic theory of Penrose's non-periodic tilings of the plane. II". Indagationes Mathematicae (Proceedings). 84: 53–66. doi:10.1016/1385-7258(81)90017-2.

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