Prof. Harold Linnartz

Prof. Harold Linnartz

16 oktober 1965 - 31 december 2023

In memoriam Harold V.J. Linnartz 1965 – 2023: Unlocking the Chemistry of the Heavens

On 31 December 2023 Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz passed away unexpectedly at the age of 58. He leaves behind his wife Helga and their children Anne and Thomas. Linnartz held the Chair for Laboratory Astrophysics at Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, the Netherlands, where he was appointed in 2005. He was a world leader in laboratory studies of gaseous and icy molecules in interstellar space. Linnartz also served as Education Director at Leiden Observatory. He guided with passion the very successful education program in astronomy.

Linnartz was born on October 16, 1965 in Heerlen, in the province of Limburg of The Netherlands, where he finished high school (Gymnasium beta ‘Rolduc’ in Kerkrade) in 1984. He subsequently went to study experimental physics at the University of Nijmegen, where he also did his PhD research following a one year stay in Göttingen. He graduated in 1994 at Nijmegen on the thesis Infrared and Far Infrared Spectroscopy of Transient Species with Prof. dr. J. Reuss as promotor.

In the following decade, Harold Linnartz continued his career abroad, first at Bonn and then for six years at the University of Basel in the group of Prof. dr. John P. Maier, where he also did his Habilitation in 2002. In that period, he developed new laboratory techniques to measure the electronic spectra of gaseous ions and radicals, i.e., transient molecules that react very quickly under Earth-like conditions but can be stable in the vacuum of space. A central theme in Basel was the study of the so-called Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs), a set of (by now) 500 bands that are seen in clouds between the stars at visible wavelengths but that have defied identification for more than a century. Long carbon-chain molecules have been postulated as possible carriers and Harold had a leading role in systematically measuring the spectra of these and other candidate molecules in the laboratory. Solving the DIB mystery continued to be a major theme during his career, also when he moved in 2003 back to the Netherlands to the Vrije Universiteit (VU) at Amsterdam as a senior researcher at the VU Laser Centre and subsequently at Leiden. He kept his close connections with the VU through a special chair for molecular laboratory astrophysics in the 2008-2013 period. One of his last papers was on DIBs as part of the ESO-EDIBLES consortium, conducting an observational survey and highlighting that high resolution optical spectroscopy in space and in the laboratory go hand-in-hand.

After his move to Leiden in 2005, Harold Linnartz became Director of the Leiden Laboratory for Astrophysics. This entailed a broadening of his scientific focus to include, besides gas-phase spectroscopy, also solid-state chemistry and, besides optical, also infrared studies in which the Leiden laboratory was specialized. Thanks to his in-depth expertise in designing, building, and commissioning equipment, the laboratory started soon after his arrival to harvest scientific results from a number of new experiments in ultra-high vacuum surface science.

Stimulated by his passionate leadership, together with excellent postdocs and PhD students, the laboratory was rapidly thriving and became world leading in the study of the chemistry and spectroscopy of interstellar ices under Harold’s leadership. It grew from three to seven set-ups, including also experiments dedicated to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and gas-phase molecules, using state-of-the-art techniques in experimental physics. His overall publication list of more than 260 papers is a testimony to the many excellent results. He became a co-leader of the NWO Dutch Astrochemistry network and highly active internationally in the organization of conferences and workshops, and more generally in steering the interdisciplinary field of laboratory astrophysics worldwide.

When the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) became operational in 2013, observational studies of complex organic molecules in star-forming regions took a new turn. He shifted the laboratory experiments to unraveling the chemistry in ices and how these molecules can form under the coldest conditions when species hardly move on surfaces. Meet and greet was Linnartz’ answer: he and his team showed that reactions between neighboring molecules could take place on cold icy grains and form the sugars, alcohols, aldehydes, and other ingredients of the cosmic cocktail that were being observed with ALMA. Even amino acids, the starting blocks for prebiotic chemistry, could be produced in the laboratory. These cosmic recipes are now an integral part of the latest astrochemical models.

The advent of the James Webb Space Telescope, including the Netherlands’ investment in the MidInfraRed Instrument (MIRI), meant a new challenge for the laboratory: infrared spectroscopy of complex molecules. The databases from the 1990’s are highly incomplete on the types of molecules that JWST could search for. A large number of spectra were collected by his team prior to launch and made publically available through the Leiden Database for Ice, LIDA in 2022, a telephone directory for ices in his words. Harold Linnartz was co-PI on the JWST IceAge program and thoroughly enjoyed the arrival of the first high-quality JWST data. Just last month, the culmination of this work happened with the publication of the first detection of more complex molecules in interstellar ices, demonstrating that they indeed have a solid-state origin. A beautiful synergy between laboratory and observational studies that he was deservedly very proud of.

Harold Linnartz was not only an extremely active researcher but also a great educator who was convinced of the utmost importance of education. He became Director of Education in 2018, a role he was performing with much passion. He shaped the education office into an effective team capable of organizing one of the largest bachelor and master programs in astronomy in the world. The Covid period was challenging, but with Harold’s overview and attention to detail, the education program continued successfully. Moreover, Harold always kept a vivid eye on the interests of individual students: he realized that a University is a big place but that he could play crucial roles in the lives of individual students. Many of them are still grateful for his help.

Harold Linnartz was an excellent and dedicated mentor to his many students, PhD candidates and postdocs. With his warm and engaging personality, he inspired them in many ways and always had good advice and active support, from science and writing of papers to career paths. Accepted papers were celebrated with a famous paper cake, and the annual laboratory outings were a social highlight of the year. Harold had a great sense of humor and was a jovial companion at meetings and during travel. He was also an excellent popular writer with a long string of Dutch and English press releases, radio interviews and newspaper contributions, always with just the right quote. He loved astronomy so much that he shared his passion in regular articles in his local hometown paper about the night sky.

Throughout his illustrious career, Harold Linnartz focused on unlocking the chemistry of the heavens. As a spectroscopist pur sang, shining light on molecules in space was one of his guiding principles. Fathom the behavior of molecules under the extreme conditions of space was another. Harold had many ideas to continue his research in these areas over the coming years, but it is not to be. We will miss him dearly.
Condoleance toevoegen X sluiten
Uw naam:

Uw email (wordt niet gepubliceerd):

Wilt u een SMS ontvangen direct als er een nieuw nationaal register geopend wordt? Stuur dan CONDO AAN naar 3010

We versturen nooit meer dan 5 berichten per week. Deze abonnementsdienst kost 25 cent per ontvangen bericht. U kunt zich afmelden door CONDO STOP te sms-en naar 3010.
        1 t/m 20 van 257        Volgende >
Een enorm droevigmakend bericht ontving ik op mijn eerste werkdag in januari, met daarin het nieuws dat Harold enkele dagen daarvoor was overleden. Dat is veel te vroeg. Ik zal hem blijven herinneren als een buitengewoon aimabele collega in Leiden, hij bij de opleiding Sterrenkunde, ik bij Natuurkunde, waarmee ik altijd als ik hem in de gangen tegenkwam even gezellig kon praten, o.a. over onze beider Heerlense/Limburgse roots en Nijmeegse ervaringen. Professioneel kwam ik hem vaak tegen bij vergaderingen van de Opleidingscommissies Natuurkunde en Sterrenkunde. Mijn meest bijgebleven herinnering is de eerste keer dat ik hem ontmoette, nadat ik een gesprek aanvroeg met hem toen hij net was aangetreden als Opleidingsdirecteur van de Sterrenkunde BSc en MSc opleidingen. Als docent van het vak Statistical Physics (in het tweede jaar van het bachelorprogramma) had ik zorgen en problemen met de voorkennis van de studenten Sterrenkunde(solo) op het gebied van statistiek en waarschijnlijkheidsrekening. Harold toonde zich zeer betrokken en beloofde maatregelen te nemen binnen de vakken die alleen Sterrenkunde studenten volgen; een belofte waar hij zich, uiteraard, aan hield. Ik hoop dat deze persoonlijke anekdote mede tot troost kan zijn voor zijn dierbaren. Rust zacht, vriendelijke Harold. Ik wens je vrouw en kinderen veel sterkte om jouw directe afwezigheid te kunnen dragen. 
Op 8 februari 2024
om 16:23 getekend door:
P.e.t.e.r. .D.e.n.t.e.n.e.e.r.
Dit is niet ok
Dit bericht heeft ons zeer verdrietig gemaakt. Wij kenden hem van de studentenflat in Nijmegen. Wij, dat zijn Alfons Smolders, Andre de Hoogh en Odette van Beurden-Rosier. Veel sterkte aan zijn vrouw Helga, zijn kinderen en andere familie. 
Op 2 februari 2024
om 19:31 getekend door:
O.d.e.t.t.e. .v.a.n. .B.e.u.r.d.e.n.-.R.o.s.i.e.r.
Dit is niet ok
Lieve Harold, wat laat je ons schrikken. Veel sterkte aan zijn lieve en slimme vrouw Helga en voor zijn kinderen, die ik nooit gekend heb. Ik ken Harold van de studentenflat in Nijmegen, de Vossenburgflat, waár we een vriendengroepje hadden met Andre de Hoogh en Alfons Smolders. Ik had hem al een tijdje niet meer gesproken, maar de wereld schijnt toch iets minder nu. 
Op 2 februari 2024
om 17:18 getekend door:
O.d.e.t.t.e. .v.a.n. .B.e.u.r.d.e.n.-.R.o.s.i.e.r.
Dit is niet ok
Wat een verdrietig en schokkend bericht. Hoewel ik niet direct met Harold heb samengewerkt, waren onze interacties altijd zeer positief en interessant. Ik wens zijn familie, vrienden en collega's heel veel sterkte in deze moeilijke tijd. Rust in vrede! 
Op 2 februari 2024
om 11:11 getekend door:
S.a.s.k.i.a. .H.e.k.k.e.r.
Dit is niet ok
We zijn allen passanten in het leven. Met Harold is een bijzondere passant ons voorgegaan. Ik heb dierbare herinneringen aan hem uit onze tijd op Gymnasium Rolduc. Daar was je de beste van de klas. En de beste ben je (zo te lezen) ook in je leven voor velen gebleken. Rust zacht.

Ralph Janssen
Klasgenoot op Rolduc 
Op 21 januari 2024
om 14:21 getekend door:
R.a.l.p.h. .J.a.n.s.s.e.n.
Dit is niet ok
This is a huge shock, as I knew Harold very well. 
Op 18 januari 2024
om 6:33 getekend door:
L.a.u.r.i. .H.a.l.o.n.e.n.
Dit is niet ok
Wat een intens verdrietig bericht. Harold was een fijn mens waar je altijd even gezellig mee kon praten. Ik wens zijn familie en naasten heel veel sterkte in deze moeilijke tijd. 
Op 17 januari 2024
om 11:53 getekend door:
k.i.r.s.t.e.n. .G.r.o.e.n.
Dit is niet ok
Ik koester de herinneringen aan Harold als ganggenoot op onze studentengang. De feesten, gezellige avonden, de kookgroep. Een warm, aimabel mens. 
Op 17 januari 2024
om 0:32 getekend door:
M.a.r.c. .v.a.n. .d.e.r. .G.r.a.c.h.t.
Dit is niet ok
I was profoundly sad when I learned the terrible, shocking news of Harold’s passing. His sudden loss is devasting to his family, friends, colleagues, and the worldwide scientific community.

I’d like to start exxpressing my deepest condolences to Helga, Anne, and Thomas. I have such fond memories of visiting you in Vreeland and our ‘dagjes uit’ together. I think of you often.

Harold’s devotion to his family was exemplary, and much of that transferred to the people with whom he worked. Harold was such a kind and gentle man. It was his generosity and foresight that made it possible for me to work with him in Leiden. We met at a Noble Symposium on Astrochemistry nearly 20 years ago and it was there that he invited me for a research visit to his Astrochemistry Lab Group in Leiden. It took a couple of years, but Harold made it happen. I will be forever grateful for those wonderful months which led to years of joyful, productive collaboration. Working hands-on in the lab with Harold and Jordy Bouwman was such a precious gift, particularly for someone facing the threshold of retiring. We worked well together and tackled many different things over the following years, ranging from starting the productive International Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Dutch Astrochemistry Network to starting new research programs.

During those visits, seeing all that he was calmly accomplishing so well, I came to realize that Harold was such an extraordinary man. He was a soft-spoken, humble and strong leader; a brilliant scientist, professor, mentor; an outstanding organizer;… The breadth of experiments in his lab, and rapidity of change was breathtaking. Harold had a big heart for service, helping people under him, and trying to improve things.

We will all be processing Harold’s loss for a very long time to come. 
Op 14 januari 2024
om 0:51 getekend door:
L.o.u. .A.l.l.a.m.a.n.d.o.l.a.
Dit is niet ok
Ik ontmoette Harold toen ik nog op de middelbare zat en langskwam op de Ladies Science day aan de Universiteit Leiden. Ik herinner me hem als een lieve man, die graag alles uitlegt wanneer je een vraag had en wie onwijs veel kennis had.

Mijn oprechte deelnemening en condoleances aan zijn familie, vrienden en dierbaren. 
Op 12 januari 2024
om 17:45 getekend door:
Dit is niet ok
Mijn oprechte deelname in deze donkere tijden. 
Op 12 januari 2024
om 15:28 getekend door:
S.t.e.v.e.n. .C.u.y.l.l.e.
Dit is niet ok
I saw Harold in the canteen, just before Christmas. It is unbelievable that he has passed away. I will always remember his kind personality and his original scientific work on the formation of molecules on the surface of interstellar dust.

My condolances to the family. I wish them a lot of strength. 
Op 12 januari 2024
om 11:55 getekend door:
M.a.r.c.e.l. .H.e.s.s.e.l.b.e.r.t.h.
Dit is niet ok
I was shocked and heartbroken while reading the email that carried the sad news of the sudden death of Harold Linnartz.
I know him since 2006 when I won the 2nd round of the competitive Greenberg fellowship at Sackler Laboratory in Leiden. I'll never forget the quietest voice I ever heard on phone to tell me that I was selected for this fellow. Then after a few months when I arrived at NL, and it was my first time outside Egypt by myself, I met him with his usual smile that reflected the kindness of him. He insisted to help with my luggage and drove me to my accommodation carrying my suitcase to my room. He showed me around and thought me the way to the lab. In the lab, he introduced me to everyone and took me in a tour in the huiggens building. He arranged everything for me and lend me extra kitchen utensils from his house some of them were new!!
Harold Linnartz opened the window of experimental astrophysics and astrochemistry to me. He always encouraged me to discuss my ideas, he was the first to tell me your English is good which gave me more confidence.
The loss is huge and the sadness is deep, but the good memories we had with Harold will always be remembered
My condolences for his family, friends, colleagues and students.
May Allah rest his soul in peace; Amen 
Op 11 januari 2024
om 15:38 getekend door:
Z.a.i.n.a.b. .A.w.a.d.
Dit is niet ok
Het heengaan van Harold is surrealistische. Mijn interacties met Harold waren sporadisch, maar altijd bijzonder fijn. Hij was een tour-de-force in de astrochemie en uitermate gerespecteerd. Dit is een groot verlies voor de gemeenschap.

Condoléances aan de familie, vrienden, kanissen en naaste collega's van Harold.

- Christiaan 
Op 10 januari 2024
om 22:08 getekend door:
C.h.r.i.s.t.i.a.a.n. .B.o.e.r.s.m.a.
Dit is niet ok
Dat Harold er niet meer is is niet te bevatten. De gedachte maakt me erg droef. En nog droever word ik als ik aan Helga, Thomas en Anne denk, wat is dit zwaar voor hen. Heel veel sterkte.

Harold en ik hebben vele jaren samen gewerkt in het MT van de Sterrewacht. Dit was uiterst plezierig. Hij was een ideale onderwijs directeur: zeer betrokken, met een uitstekend idee van het hogere doel, terwijl hij ook zeer begaan was met individuele studenten. Dat hij dit deed terwijl hij ook zeer succesvol was als wetenschapper en begeleider van postdocs, PhDs en master studenten verdient groot respect. Wat ik misschien nog het meest ga missen is het even bijpraten: niet alleen over werk, maar ook even over wat persoonlijke zaken.

Harold, we gaan je vreselijk missen, with love. Huub 
Op 10 januari 2024
om 14:52 getekend door:
H.u.u.b. .R.o.t.t.g.e.r.i.n.g.
Dit is niet ok
I have been really shocked to hear this terrible news. Although I haven't worked directly with Harold on research projects, I remember him as a wonderful human being, having passionate discussions about science and life in general. As explained in Harold's obituary, he was a great mentor and was always able to find time in his busy agenda to help students and post-docs. I express all my condolences to his family and his colleagues. 
Op 10 januari 2024
om 14:05 getekend door:
V.i.a.n.n.e.y. .T.a.q.u.e.t.
Dit is niet ok
It is such a great loss for me. Harold has been super supportive and kind, willing to help everyone around. Based on his comments and suggestions, I have finished the revision of a paper manuscript last week, but now he won't see the final version. When I was in Nijmegen doing experiments at FELIX, he often gave me a ride to my hotel before driving another 2 hours home. My thoughts are with his family and he will be sorely missed. 
Op 10 januari 2024
om 13:47 getekend door:
J.i.n. .Z.h.a.n.g.
Dit is niet ok
The news of Harold's passing is shocking and deeply sad - astrochemistry has lost one of its most inspiring and impactful scientists far too early. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. 
Op 10 januari 2024
om 10:13 getekend door:
E.v.a. .W.i.r.s.t.r.ö.m.
Dit is niet ok
It was with great sadness that I learned of the loss of Harold, since together we have been recently working to build a collaboration between our two research laboratories. My deepest condolences go out to his family. His absence will be felt by his colleagues for many years to come. 
Op 10 januari 2024
om 0:53 getekend door:
P.e.r.r.y. .G.e.r.a.k.i.n.e.s.
Dit is niet ok
My deepest condolences to Harold’s family, friends and colleagues. Word fall short to express my deepest sympathy at this most challenging time.

Dear Harold, I keep excellent memories of my time in your laboratory. I learned so much from you in so many fields. Thank you for this precious heritage.

Op 9 januari 2024
om 22:13 getekend door:
J.e.a.n.-.B.a.p.t.i.s.t.e. .B.o.s.s.a.
Dit is niet ok
       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 13      Volgende >
Dit register is aangemaakt door:
Ignas Snellen
op 2 januari 2024
en blijft zichtbaar tot:
2 maart 2025
Contact met beheerder >
Contact met Ignas Snellen:


Register verlengen >
Een blijvende herinnering aan:

Prof. Harold Linnartz

U kunt van dit register en de toegevoegde condoleances zelf een boekje maken en laten drukken. Meer info >

Nieuw boekje maken >
Hou me op de hoogte
Wilt u op de hoogte gehouden worden als er nieuwe (nationale) registers geopend worden? biedt verschillende mogelijkheden om op de hoogte te blijven, zoals e-mail, Twitter en SMS. Foto