The Board of the ‘De Koepel’ Foundation has decided to award the 2013 Willem de Graaff Prize to the Groningen astronomer Prof. Peter Barthel.
Alongside his work as a physicist, Prof. Willem de Graaff (1923-2004) actively promoted space travel and astronomy among a wide audience. The ‘De Koepel’ Foundation established the Willem de Graaff Prize in 2007 as an expression of its appreciation for his efforts. The prize is primarily intended for professionals in the field of astronomy who, alongside their work, make extraordinary contributions to the popularization of this science. The prize, EUR 1500, is awarded once every three years. Previous winners include Prof. John Heise and Prof. Vincent Icke.
Peter Barthel has been professor of astrophysics at the University of Groningen since 2004. He studied physics and astronomy in Amsterdam and Utrecht and gained his PhD in Leiden in 1984. He then spent some years working as a researcher at the California Institute of Technology. In 1988 he joined the Kapteyn Institute at the University of Groningen.
Alongside his scientific work, Barthel is actively involved in the popularization of science. His enthusiastic, versatile approach attracts a wide audience, including great numbers of school pupils. For example, during the Arts and Sciences Night he organized a performance of Sisask’s piano duet ‘Sombrero Galaxy’ with video projection, and he has also combined art and astronomy in photo exhibitions at the Huis Marseille and the Nemo Science Center.
Barthel is Rector of the University of Groningen Pre-University Academy and regularly holds lectures at the Children's University. He contributed to a new physics programme for HAVO/VWO secondary education, bringing astronomy back into the classroom. In addition, he headed the ‘Ontdek het onzichtbare heelal’ [Discover the invisible universe] project, which included many results from the Herschel infrared satellite. This project was awarded the 2008 Academische Jaarprijs. In 2011 he wrote the article ‘Santa and the Moon’ about research on how the moon is depicted on gift wrap and in children’s books, and he has been a guest on the TV talkshow Pauw en Witteman.
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