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In Memoriam | Professor Serge Daan

12 February 2018
Prof. em. Serge Daan
Prof. em. Serge Daan

With deep sadness we received the news that Professor emeritus Serge Daan passed away on Friday, February 9 th , 2018.

Serge Daan was an inspiring biologist with a broad interest in science. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and was knighted in the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands. He was awarded several prizes and awards, including the prestigious International Prize for Biology, which he received from the Emperor of Japan. His publications were cited over 15,000 times and include seminal work in chronobiology, sleep research, psychiatry, physiology, ecology and behavioural biology. The ‘Two Process Model’ of human sleep regulation he developed with Alex Borbély and Domien Beersma, still inspires many sleep researchers all over the world.

Serge Daan studied Biology at the University of Amsterdam, received his PhD Cum Laude on hibernation and circadian rhythms in 1973. As a post-doc he worked with two founders of Chronobiology: Jürgen Aschoff and Colin Pittendrigh. With Aschoff he published influential work on latitudinal adaptation of circadian entrainment in birds and mammals. With Pittendrigh he published a series of 5 classic papers, often referred to as ‘the Bible of Chronobiology’.

In 1975, he moved to the University of Groningen, where he was appointed in the Animal Ecology group of Prof. Drent. Serge his work became more eco-physiologically oriented by focussing on kestrel-vole interactions in relation to energy expenditure. ‘Time and Energy’ became a central theme in his gradually expanding Chronobiology group that published a series of classical papers on parental investment, including the highly cited “Prudent Parent” paper on maximal sustainable energy expenditure (over 1,600 citations). The notion of quantifiable sleep intensity through EEG recordings led to the development of the ‘Two Process Model’ of human sleep regulation, together with Alex Borbély and Domien Beersma. To date, this model still inspires many sleep researchers all over the world and led to a closer collaboration with psychiatrist Rudi van den Hoofdakker and the development of light therapy.

Serge Daan at Kapp Martin, Svalbard (courtesy of Joost Tinbergen)
Serge Daan at Kapp Martin, Svalbard (courtesy of Joost Tinbergen)

In 1996, Serge became Professor of Behavioural Biology and in 2003 he was awarded with the endowed Niko Tinbergen Chair in Behavioural Biology. He was a member and chair of several committees of the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO), chair of the Dutch Society of Behavioural Biology, and founded the Centre of Timing Research in the Netherlands. In 2001 he became Vice-Dean and later Dean of the Groningen Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (now named Faculty of Science and Engineering), where he was instrumental in implementing the tenure track system and the Rosalind Franklin fellowship program for women at the University of Groningen. He stayed active in the field after retirement and was deeply moved when he received his last publication, the biography of Jürgen Aschoff – Die Innere Uhr des Menschen, two months before he died.

Serge Daan (co-)supervised more than 40 PhD students, most of them able to follow a successful career in science. Many of us will remember his sharp analytical mind and his great scientific skills, as well as the friendly and open scientific atmosphere that he created together with his wife Ruth Hohe-Daan, by inviting many guests and colleagues to their house at lively dinners, discussion sessions and garden parties. The world lost a great scientist and many of us will remember him as a dear colleague, mentor and friend.

Serge Daan passed away surrounded by his family at his house ‘Villa Later’, at Paterswolde, the Netherlands. Serge will be fondly remembered by many colleagues, students, and friends of the University.

Prof. Roelof Hut
GELIFES - Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences


Professor emeritus Serge Daan in the Catalogus Professorum Academiae Groninganae

Professor emeritus Serge Daan in Wikipedia

Last modified:14 February 2018 2.47 p.m.

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