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Pastor Schmeits Prize

The "Foundation Pastoor Schmeits for Astronomy" was founded in 1919 and aims to stimulate the study of astronomy by awarding a prize to an astronomer with special merits.

The Pastoor Schmeits Prize comes with a cash prize of 1,500 euros. This prize has been awarded once every three years since 1980. The prize winner must have Dutch nationality or be a resident of the Netherlands, and must have made a scientific contribution of exceptional importance and merit to astronomy in the five years prior to the award ceremony. The publication of this contribution must have taken place within twelve years of obtaining the doctorate.

The previous prize winners are:

  • Hennie Lamers (1980)
  • John of Paradise (1983)
  • Ewine van Dishoeck (1986)
  • Michiel van der Klis (1989)
  • Xander Tielens (1991)
  • Rens Waters (1995)
  • Koen Kuijken (1998)
  • Pascal Ehrenfreund (2001)
  • Peter van Dokkum (2004)
  • Eline Tolstoy and Simon Portegies Zwart (two winners in 2007)
  • Amina Helmi and Joop Schaye (two winners in 2010)
  • Rychard Bouwens (2013)
  • Jason Hessels (2016)
  • Selma de Mink (2019)
  • Diederik Kruijssen (2022)

The next award of the prize will take place in 2025. At the end of 2024, all permanent staff members in astronomy in the Netherlands will be invited to submit nominations.


The foundation is managed by the board of the J.C. Kapteyn Study Fund , which also assesses the nominations once every three years. The board is unpaid and has the following composition:

  • Prof. E. Tolstoy (RUG, chairman)
  • Dr. J.M. van Rooij (RUG, secretary/treasurer)
  • Prof. M. Kriek (UL)
  • Prof. S.B. Markoff (UVA)
  • Prof. J. Hörandel (RU)
  • Drs. G.F. Meijering-Swint (RUG, executive secretary)

Kapteyn Instituut
PO Box 800
9700 AV Groningen



The goal of the Foundation Pastoor Schmeits for Astronomy is briefly described in the following document .

Overview of activities and finances

A brief overview of the finances of the Foundation over the past year can be found via this link.

History of Pastor Schmeits

Maria Paschalis Schmeits was born in Sittard on August 21, 1851. He was destined for priesthood, went to school at the Jesuit College in his birthplace, to priestly training in Rolduc and completed his studies at the Major Seminary in Roermond. On March 13, 1875 he was ordained as a priest by Mgr. Paredis. On October 2, 1875 he became chaplain at the St. Servaes parish in Maastricht. At that time, Schmeits was closely involved in the restoration of St. Servaes. “There is not a stone on St. Servaes that I have not touched,” was a statement by the pastor. In 1901 he gave a lecture on the construction history of this church for an international conference for archeology and history, which was held in Tongeren, Belgium. His study also appeared in book form.

On September 16, 1895 he became pastor in Buggenum and then pastor of the St. Petrus Bandenkerk in Venray on December 6, 1902. He often felt homesick for his time in Maastricht, he missed the liveliness of the city. He also regularly visited the theater in the west of the country - against church rules. Schmeits felt like an unpopular outsider among the Limburg clergy. He was not assured of the unconditional trust of the episcopal curia in Roermond. Schmeits was too big for Limburg or Limburg too small for Schmeits.

Schmeits was a man of many talents. He was a pastor from whom everyone distanced themselves a bit because they had difficulty with his high intelligence. He was not only interested in architecture. He was also an excellent musician and a promoter of church music. He was active locally and in a larger context to revive liturgical singing in Gregorian. The story goes that he sang Gregorian chant according to his interpretation during a private audience with Pope Pius He also gave a lecture on the latest inventions in physics, chemistry and technology. A man with broad interests: literature, archaeology, botany, zoology and astronomy. It is not without reason that his two inseparable dogs were called Castor and Pollux, the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini. Apparently astronomy held a special fascination for him in the latter part of his life. He had been ill for some time when he died on October 11, 1919. But on the previous 27 June, he established the foundation by notarial deed, which was given the name “Foundation Pastoor Schmeits for Astronomy” and to which he gave a capital of 2,000 guilders.

Pastor Schmeits for Astronomy: RSIN 821619780

Last modified:08 May 2024 4.37 p.m.
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