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Gerrit de Bruin

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3 March 1941

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Gerrit de Bruin, Dutch physicist, world famous in Twente, was born in Rotterdam during the second world war. As a young kid he liked to play with guns and play soccer. After falling in a barrel filled with fishheads and other fish waste during a soccer exercise he gave up his successful professional soccer career. He turned to his other hobby which was firing guns, but after some minor problems with the police and the Dutch army he had to give that up as well and was forced to pursue a career in physics. Then his remarkable talent arose and he soon turned out to be an outstanding physicist. He studied Applied Mathematics in Delft; specialised in aeroplane building, and he met his wife, Ellen Petterson, in the library of Delft.

However, the houses in the eastern part of the Netherlands were so cheap that he moved to Enschede in May 1968. In 1969 he joined the group of Leen van Wijngaarden at the department of Applied Physics where he was the first expert on numerical analysis and applied mathematics. Gerrit worked successfully on surface waves and cavitation, resulting in a beautiful paper in the Journal of Engineering Mathematics; nowadays loved bedtime reading among PhD-students.

In Enschede he became a passionate teacher, loved by all his students for his excessive explanations which included several side stories as a free bonus. Whenever in desperate need of an explanation of a certain question on whatever subject: Gerrit became the man to see; although quite some time was always needed for these meetings: the extra stories about violins, Japan or beer need you to take into account the extra hours for this as well. This extra information for free is also quite a hobby for Gerrit: he basically swamps our coffee room table with prints of biographies of great mathematicians who happened to have either died or celebrating a birthday on the given day. To give the reader an idea: the biographies look quite like this one.

Being down to earth is also a virtue of Gerrit: he once adviced Erik to copy the answers of problem sheets from fellow students; knowing the normal procedures in cases like these with students. Sometimes the extra side stories besides the needed answer took more time: he and his wife even took some of the students to Paris for some insight. Nowadays Gerrit is a beacon of knowledge not just for the master students, but for the PhD's, the postdocs and the staff as well. Well, the whole department to be more precise.

Gerrits knowledge on physics is only outweighed by his knowledge on classical music. He knows all the compact disc stores on the western hemisphere with an adequate collection of classical CD's and is known for spending days for expanding his already massive collection of CD's. This love for classical music is not surprising; being raised in a musical family. He is a rare exception in the family by not going to the conservatory but he does play violoncello. To make up for this 'flaw' he has an other addiction: building musical instruments; especially violins. Being quite ambitious he plans to use his retirement for building the ideal violin using his knowledge on the physics behind this instrument. Although with great respect for the undisputed violin builder Stradivarius, he expects he could have built the ideal instrument using numerics, potential theory and material knowledge, equalling Stradivarius; although realising the term 'ideal' is giving room for discussion on the actual interpretation in this respect.

All these years Gerrit has never been ill for one day, which is caused by the food his wife cooks for him. This politically correct reason he usually gives in the vicinity of his wife. Another explanation of his excellent health is told by Gerrit at drinks after PhD-defences and Master thesis defences: "the amount of alcohol in his blood would make it impossible for any bacteria or virus to survive". Therefore: drinking, especially beer, is not a hobby, it is a necessity for healthy living according to Gerrit. The students; always eager to learn useful lessons, took this advise seriously. Luckily no one in our group got serious drinking problems. Au contraire, we all love to drink and beer in itself is our group on a small scale: combining foams, bubble dynamics, turbulence and fluid mechanics in one bottle; although several bottles is more common.

This reasoning is by the way often given for different subjects by Gerrit; combining the pleasures of life with necessities. He for instance knows quite some good bookstores which happens to be situated in the middle of the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

Gerrit lives nowadays in Hof van Twente, Stadt Delden (NOT Ambt Delden), and will be dearly missed in our group. Luckily he can still be seen and listened to in the Physics of Fluids group for quite some time!

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland