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In Memoriam Wout Beerekamp (1941-2020)

Submitter: Jan Noordam, Jaap Baars
Description: Wout joined ASTRON (then called SRZM) in 1965, as part of the team that looked after the famous 25m radio telescope in Dwingeloo, which was once the largest in the World. He was trained in digital electronics, but was greatly interested in using the rapidly encroaching computers. He was the driving force of the new HP2114, and gave programming lessons (in machine language) to the rest of the staff. Due to his social and organisatorial skills he soon became Head of the Technical workshop.

During the building of the much larger Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT), Wout was elected as the first chairman of the new "Personeelsraad" (staff representation committee) of the vigorously growing institute in Dwingeloo. In this capacity he played a smoothing role in the difficult reorganisation of 1971/2.

In 1974 he prevailed over 20 applicants for the function of Head of Observations for the WSRT. He held this post for the duration of the "dizzy decade", when the WSRT was the foremost radio telescope in the World.

Looking for new challenges, he then became Head of Operations during the startup of the Isaac Newton Group of optical telescopes, which was part of the multi-wavelength UK/NL collaboration with Great Britain. In that context, he spent 1984/5 on La Palma, the westernmost Canary island. Back in Dwingeloo, he was entrusted with easing the invigorating secondment of an increasing number of ASTRON staff to our various interests on La Palma, Hawaii, and in England.

After his retirement in 1988, Wout deployed his teaching skills in public outreach at the new Planetron in Dwingeloo, where he planted the seeds of many a future career in astronomy. He also played an important role in the collaboration with CAMRAS, an organisation of radio "hams" that eventually took over the care (and new use) of the venerable Dwingeloo telescope. (NB: One of the hams at the opening of the refurbished telescope in 2014 was the Nobel Prize winner Joe Taylor).

So Wout was a multi-faceted man with a multi-faceted career, in which he helped make things happen by motivating people. This valuable skill also manifested itself in his busy private life, where he typically was chairman of organisations like the tennisclub, the church, the bridge club etc. Thank you, Wout.

Copyright: Beerekamp family
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