Lodewijk van den Berg

From chemical technician to astronaut

Lodewijk van den Berg graduated from Delft University of Technology in 1961. After studying chemical engineering, he moved to the United States to continue his studies at the University of Delaware. He specialised in the cultivation of crystals and obtained a Ph.D. in 1974. His crystals, with which gamma radiation can be detected, were considered
a spy-sensitive invention. For this reason, he was asked to become an American citizen. He complied in 1975.

Van den Berg gave NASA the idea of growing crystals in weightlessness. Although he had no intention of becoming an astronaut himself, NASA asked him to participate in their programme. To his own surprise, he passed all the tests and was launched to space in April 1985 aboard the Spaceshuttle Challenger. After a week in space, he landed back on earth. This meant he was ahead of the Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels, who is commonly regarded as the first Dutchman in space.

Van den Berg also worked as chief scientist at the Constellation Technology Corporation. An asteroid was named after him in 2007: Lodewijkberg. A statue in his honour has also been erected in his birthplace, Sluiskil. Van den Berg never stopped cultivating crystals.

Dr. Lodewijk van den Berg received this award because of his special method for growing crystals and his participation in the space flight with the Spaceshuttle Challenger in 1985.