JMBC – a concise history

In about 1989 the initiative was taken to organize the academic fluid-dynamics community in the Netherlands in a larger setting. Discussions were taking place at that time with FOM (Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter), the national funding agency for physics, in order to give the fluid dynamics community a clear position within FOM. Eventually, this resulted in the founding of the FOM ‘Werkgemeenschap’ Stroming & Warmte. Key-players in these discussions were Prof Charles Hoogendoorn (TUD), Prof. Frans Nieuwstadt (TUD), Prof. Leen van Wijngaarden (UT), and Prof. Gerrit Vossers (TU/e).

In 1990, many of the fluid dynamics groups in Delft became organized in the ‘TUD-samenwerkingsverband stromingsleer’. Initiators of this collaboration network were Prof. Charles Hoogendoorn, Prof. Frans Nieuwstadt, and Prof. Jurjen Battjes.

One year later, in 1991, this local collaboration network was extended to the national scale by also including fluid dynamics groups in Eindhoven and Twente: this marked the founding of the JM Burgerscentrum (JMBC), the national research school for fluid dynamics. While most of the participating groups were based at TUD, TU/e and UT, also one fluid dynamics group in Groningen became a member of the new research school.

In 1992, the JMBC received the formal recognition by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW). In that foundation year, the JMBC was formed by a total of 25 participating groups, with a total of 38 PhD students. Prof. Charles Hoogendoorn served as its first scientific director. A few years later he was succeeded by Prof. Gijs Ooms, who served as JMBC director until 2014.

In the course of the years the JMBC gradually increased in size. At the 25th anniversary (in 2017), the JMBC housed a total of 48 academic groups, with a total of about 350 PhD students and 60 postdocs.

The presently participating groups cover many aspects of the wide field of fluid dynamics: turbulence, multiphase flows, combustion, waves, granular flows, flows of non-Newtonian fluids, flows in porous media, flows with buoyancy forces (rotation, density effects), biological fluid mechanics, environmental fluid mechanics, flows in the built environment. The participating groups have built up great expertise in the different methodological approaches: experimental, theoretical, and numerical.

In a number of ‘contact groups’ within the JMBC, expertise and experience is exchanged, which often leads to closer collaboration between the participating groups. Although the JM Burgerscentrum is an academic research school, many contacts with industrial research groups exist, and a large number of joint research projects are carried out with industrial partners.

The research school is named after Prof. Jan M, Burgers (1895-1981), who was professor of Aerodynamics and Hydrodynamics in Delft from 1918 until 1955. In 1955 he moved to the University of Maryland (USA), where he became a research professor at the Institute for Fluid Dynamics and Applied Mathematics. He remained active as professor emeritus until he died in 1981. Inspired by the intellectual heritage of Prof. Jan M. Burgers, the ‘Burgers Program Maryland’ was established, with the primary goal to enhance the quality and international visibility of the research and educational programmes in fluid dynamics at the University of Maryland, in partnership with the JMBC in The Netherlands.

A highly readable (auto)biography of JM Burgers has been composed by Prof. Jan Sengers (Burgers Program Maryland, USA) and Prof. Gijs Ooms (former scientific director JMBC).

Some historical data

Scientific directors

  • Prof. Charles Hoogendoorn, 1992 – 1997
  • Prof .Gijs Ooms, 1997 – 2014
  • Prof. GertJan van Heijst, 2014 – 2021
  • Prof. Ruud Henkes – 2021 – present

Management assistants

  • Mrs Marja Oppenoorth – Moonen, 1992 – 1997
  • Mrs Dineke Hendriks, 1997 – 1998
  • Mrs Ilse Hoekstein-Philips, 1998 – 2021
  • Secretariat TUD/3mE/Process & Energy

Chairs of the JMBC Board

  • Prof. Rob Kouffeld, 1992 – 1999
  • Prof. Henk Tijdeman, 1999 – 2007
  • Prof. Gabriel Lodewijks, 2007 – 2015
  • Prof. Hans van Duijn, 2015 – present

Chairs of Industrial Advisory Board

  • Dr Frits Dijksman (Philips)
  • Dr Rene Duursma (Tata Steel)
  • Ir Peter Veenstra (Shell)
  • Prof. dr. ir. Herman Wijshoff (Canon, TU/e)
  • Dr. ir. Tim Peeters (Tata Steel)

Formal recognitions KNAW

  • 1992 – 1997
  • 1997 – 2002
  • 2002 – 2007
  • 2007 – 2013
  • 2013 – 2018

A Century of Fluid Mechanics in The Netherlands

This book was published in order to commemorate the fact that in the year 2018 it was exactly 100 years since Jan Burgers was appointed as the first professor in fluid mechanics in The Netherlands, The author, Fons Alkemade, provides a very clear overview of various fluid-dynamical activities in The Netherlands during the last 100 years, both at the universities and in industrial laboratories.

The book is published by Springer, and is available in printed form (hardcover) and in e-book form. For more information, see www.springer.com.

About J.M. Burgers

Jan Burgers grew up, together with his brother, the crystallographer W.G. Burgers, in a remarkable parental home in Arnhem, The Netherlands. His father, a post-office clerk, had been able to become a self-educated amateur scientist who gave public lectures on physics and assembled a large collection of scientific instruments, among others a good microscope that he had received from his wife as a wedding present.

In 1914, Burgers entered the University of Leiden, where he came to know Hendrik Lorentz, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, Albert Einstein, and Niels Bohr and was part of a group of students of Paul Ehrenfest that included D. Coster, H.A. Kramers, and D.J. Struik. Burgers, the first of Ehrenfest's students in Leiden to complete a PhD thesis (1918), wrote his dissertation on the Rutherford-Bohr model of the atom, completing Ehrenfest's work on the connection between the Bohr-Sommerfeld quantification rules and the adiabatic invariants of classical mechanics.

13 January 1895 - 7 June 1981

At the age of 23, before receiving his PhD degree, Burgers was appointed as Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, ShipbuiIding and Electrical Engineering at the Technical University in Delft, where he founded the Laboratory of Aero- and Hydrodynamics. It was probably without precedent that a professor was appointed in a field of study that was practically incognita for the appointee. However, the nominating committee could base its recommendation on the warm appreciation of Ehrenfest, his PhD advisor, the admiration of Lorentz for Burgers’ essay on Rutherford's hypothesis concerning the structure of the atom (for which Burgers had won a prize from the Taylor Society), and the testimony of Kamerlingh Onnes that Burgers was a person who could be entrusted with any task he would feel called upon to make his own. In his characteristically modest account of his early years in Delft for the Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics (Vol. 7, 1975), Burgers wrote that one of his reasons for accepting the position in Delft was his fear of “having insufficient fantasy for making fruitful advances in Bohr's theory”.

While at Delft, Burgers quickly became one of the world's leading authorities on fluid dynamics. His first work was devoted to Oseen's theory of flow at low Reynolds numbers and its connection with Ludwig Prandtl's work on airfoils. In 1921 he met Theodore von Kármán, with whom he had a long and close professional and personal association that stimulated his work on turbulence. In this field he was a pioneer in using the hot-wire anemometer to probe velocity fluctuations in turbulent flows. His work on the theory of turbulence was devoted in large part to developing a statistical theory of turbulence and to treating theoretical models of turbulent flow. In this connection he studied what has now become known as the Burgers Equation, which is a one-dimensional, nonlinear partial differential equation similar in structure to the Navier-Stokes Equation for the hydrodynamic velocity field, now used also extensively in condensed matter physics and in cosmology.

In addition to his work on turbulence during his years in Delft, Burgers collaborated with his brother in work on dislocation in crystal lattices; in 1939 he introduced the Burgers vector, which is a measure of the strength of a dislocation in a lattice. He also studied the fluid dynamics of dilute polymer solutions and wrote some of the fundamental papers on the intrinsic viscosity of suspensions. This work, like those on turbulence and on dislocations, provided the foundation for much subsequent work on this topic.

In the 1940’s Burgers was instrumental in establishing the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Physics, which was admitted to the International Council of Scientific Unions in 1947. He served as general secretary of the Union from 1946 to 1952, was a member of its general assembly and served as secretary of its Joint Committee on Viscosity and Plasticity.

In 1955, at age 60, Burgers left Delft to join the faculty of the University of Maryland. There he developed his interest in the relation of the Boltzmann Equation to the equations of fluid dynamics. His book Flow Equations for Composite Gases (1969) represents some of his work during that period. His studies in plasma physics, shock waves, and related phenomena were recognized at his retirement by a symposium and volume, The Dynamics of Fluids and Plasmas (1965), edited by S.-I. Pai. At age 79 he published a book on The Nonlinear Diffusion Equation.

In addition to his purely scientific work, Burgers found the time to work on subjects of wider social and/or philosophical interest. He always was trying to find ways to use science to improve society, and he had a deep interest in the most fundamental problems—the structure of the universe and the origin and proper description of life. His preoccupation with such philosophical issues led him to the writings of A. N. Whitehead, whose ideas he tried to develop in his own book, Experience and Conceptual Activity (1965).

Jan Burgers was an exceptionally kind and thoughtful man. He took seriously anyone who presented an idea to him, and he devoted a large fraction of his time to trying to understand new ideas and new developments. His devotion to both science and society is an inspiration to all of us at the University of Maryland.


  • Selected Papers of J.M. Burgers, edited by F.T.M. Nieuwstadt and J.A. Steketee. Kluwer, Dordrecht/Boston/London, 1995.
  • Experience and Conceptual Activity; a Philosophical Essay based upon the writing of A.N. Whitehead. MIT Press, 1965.
  • Flow Equations for Composite Gases. Academic Press, 1969.
  • The Nonlinear Diffusion Equation: Asymptotic Solutions and Statistical Problems. D. Reidel Publ.,
  • Dordrecht, 1974.

This biography was composed by Prof. Jan Sengers, based on obituaries by W.T. Koiter (Jaarboek KNAW, 1981) and JR Dorfman & AJ Faller (Physics Today, 1982)