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De Sitter chair for prof. E.A. Bergshoeff (2009)

prof. dr. E.A. Bergshoeff

The University of Groningen has appointed Prof. E.A. Bergshoeff to the ‘De Sitter’ chair in Theoretical Physics. Bergshoeff is honored with this named chair because of his internationally renowned scientific contributions of extraordinary character, in specific to what is now known as the M- theory. Named chairs are specifically installed to recognize one’s excellence as a professor and are therefore named after an internationally known scientist in history.


Bergshoeff is professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. After his PhD he worked at the Brandeis University in Boston (US), at the ICTP in Triëste (Italy) and at the CERN in Geneva (Switzerland). In 1986 he and his collegues Sezgin and Townsend published a now well-known article in which they proposed an alternative idea on the string theory. They argued that it was mathematically possible to use membranes in stead of strings. Later on this idea developed into the M-theory that was applied in many unsuspected ways by different disciplines.

Bergshoeff works at the University of Groningen since 1991. He was awarded the Nicolaas Mulerius stipendium in 2006. He published over 135 articles and is linked to several Dutch as well as international organizations in the field of physics. The inauguration of the named chair was celebrated with a symposium called The Quantum Universe.

De Sitter

Willem de Sitter (1872-1934), namebarer of the chair, studied mathematics and physics at the university of Groningen. De Sitter made major contributions to the field of physical cosmology. He co-authored a paper with Albert Einstein in 1932, immediately after concluding the General Theory of Relativty. In this article they argued that there might be large amounts of matter which do not emit light, now commonly referred to as dark matter. He also came up with the concept of the de Sitter space and de Sitter universe, a solution for Einstein's general relativity in which there is no matter and a positive cosmological constant.

In the General Theory of Relativity, gravity is described as a curvature of spacetime. It is gravity that connects the work of De Sitter with the work of Bergshoeff. With the M-theory, physicists try to develop a new theory of gravity that fits the quantum theory, one of the major problems in theoretical physics. Solving the quantum gravity question is needed for an explanation of the origin of the Universe.

Last modified:24 August 2021 09.43 a.m.
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