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Jaap, ah Jaap!

Submitter: Jan Noordam
Description: Today marks the retirement of Jaap Bregman, after an ASTRON career of more than 4 decades. In a nutshell: Jaap knows his stuff, and we gingerly dote on him. He really understands radio telescopes, particularly the physics of noise, and he does not waste precious thinking-time on writing his own software. Among his admirers are giants like Ron Ekers, John O'Sullivan and Wim Brouw. When he speaks on technical matters, we listen attentively (until he starts expounding his ideas on all other subjects, for which we may not be quite ready yet).

For the glorious first decade of the WSRT, Jaap filled the crucial role of "telescope physicist". Perpetrators of new telescopes may decide that such a role is unnecessary, or that one does not need someone like Jaap for it, but they will surely pay the price for such folly. In any case, he drove the operational people crazy by never being able to take decisions, on friday afternoon, about the perfect way to set up the WSRT for the weekend observations.

For the next decade, he turned his attention to instrumentation for optical telescopes, especially CCD detectors and optical aperture synthesis. This was a real learning experience for all involved. His frank appraisal of the deficiencies of hardware and software has been known to make strong men weep. Because invariably, the most hurtful bit of his criticism was that he was absolutely right, and we knew it in our hearts.

Fortunately, the lighter side of ruthless honesty is generosity. Jaap never hesitates to praise where praise is due. And when he won the prestigious Veder Prize for the design of LOFAR, he spent half of it on a sumptuous dinner with those of us who had also made an impact on that fascinating process.

Without having a PhD himself, he played an important role in those of well-known clever people like Imke de Pater, Marco de Vos and Stefan Wijnholds. Now that he has finally decided to get one too (by the end of this year?), he really makes his hollow-eyed supervisor work for the privilege.

The picture shows him in his prime, still with beard and without gel, but already well on his way to becoming his current gentle self. Let us honour him today, and brace ourselves for his closing remarks.
Copyright: Harm Jan Stiepel
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