Johannes Martin Bijvoet
- Category : Science-Chemistry
- Type : GP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (2,29,48)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 4
Dutch chemist and crystallographer at the van 't Hoff Laboratory at Utrecht University.
Johannes Martin Bijvoet was born as the third of seven children in a noted Bijvoet family. His father Willem Frederik Bijvoet (22 November 1862 4 AM, Den Helder - 17 Jan 1939, Santpoort) was a paint manufacture, merchant in tar products and local politician in Amsterdam. On 5 March 1885 he married Barendina Margaretha Rüfer (2 February 1865, Amsterdam - 2 July 1954, Utrecht) in Amsterdam.
Johannes followed in 1903 the higher civil school (HBS) and as he was bright and wanted to promote in science, the State exams in Latin and Greek (1908-10), as the then still Universal languages were needed in Dutch universities to obtain an dissertation. He studied chemistry at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) from 1910 till 1919. Between August 1914 and 1918 he was called to arms, but during this unwanted exile he intensively studied thermodynamics and statistical mechanics of Josiah Willard Gibbs, subjects that fascinated him.
After the army he went with his friend Albert Karssen to Utrecht to study under Willem Hendrik Keesom the structure of cristals using the X ray diffraction technique of father and son Bragg. Karssen studied natriumchloride, Bijvoet lithium hydride. Bijvoet dissertated 15 July 1923 under Prof. Andreas Smits cum laude in Amsterdam on the thesis "X-ray investigation of the crystal structure of lithium and lithium hydride."
From 1923 till 1929 Bijvoet became Andreas Smit's assistant. From 1924 to 1929 he also taught chemistry at the municipal gymnasium of Hilversum, and from 1925 he taught "special topics from physical chemistry" at the University of Amsterdam as a personal lecturer. He worked with his friend Karssen for a few months in the laboratory of Sir W. Lawrence Bragg at Manchester. In 1928 Kolkmeijer, Bijvoet and Karssen published the first Dutch textbook on x-ray crystallography "Röntgen-analyse van kristallen". It had revised editions in 1938 and 1948, was translated into German in 1940 and English in 1951. February 1929 he was given the task of teaching crystallography by the geologist Hendrik A. Brouwer.
On 6 July 1939 he was elected as Professor of Chemistry at Utrecht University. The job started 19 September 1939 and lasted till 1 September 1962. His first lecture was held on 27 November 1939: "Wegen, meten, en tellen" (weighing, measuring and counting). One of his students was the in 1950 first female member of the Dutch academy of science, the crystallographer Caroline Henriette MacGillavry (22 January 1904, A'dam - 9 May 1993).
In 1950, after complicated experiments that required up to 230 hours of continuous measurements, he was the first scientist to determine the absolute spatial configuration of an optically active organic molecule (sodium rubidium tartrate). Bijvoet was able to prove the geometries of the L- and D- structures of a chiral organic molecule with a centre of asymmetry, which had been proposed arbitrarily by Emil Fischer around 1900, corresponded to reality.
From 1951 till 1954 he was chairman of the in 1946 erected International Union of Crystallography. Bijvoet got honorary doctorate degrees from the Universities of Delft (1967), Zürich (1970) and Bristol (1971) and was member of the Dutch, Belgian, Swedish and British academies of science. The on 5 March 1988 erected Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research at the University of Utrecht was named after him.
He died 4 March 1980 in Winterswijk at age 88.
On 15 April 1930 he married the pharmacist Maria Elisabeth Hardenberg (20 April 1903, Amsterdam - 3 July 1997, Den Haag). They got 3 sons (Johannes, Marius and Bernard) and a daughter Ellinor.