Hendrik Christoffel van de Hulst

Hendrik Christoffel van de Hulst


Date of Birth
November 19, 1918
Date of Death
July 31, 2000

“Henk” van de Hulst was born and educated in the Dutch city of Utrecht, at whose university he completed his war-interrupted doctorate under Marcel Minnaert in 1946. He made his most important discovery during the war: stimulated by a suggestion of Jan Oort, van de Hulst predicted in 1944 that clouds of hydrogen gas in space should emit and absorb a spectral line at wavelength 21 cm. After this radiation was detected in 1951, he, Oort, and C. Alex Muller led the Dutch team which, along with an Australian team, mapped the clouds of the Milky Way and delineated its spiral structure. Van de Hulst made extensive studies of interstellar grains and their interaction with electromagnetic radiation. He wrote important books on light scattering and radio astronomy. He investigated the solar corona and the earth’s atmosphere. After two years at the Yerkes Observatory, he taught and researched at the Leiden University from 1948 until his retirement in 1984. He was the first president of the international space committee of COSPAR and a leader in several other international organizations and in the development of Dutch and European space research.

Presentation of Bruce medal

Mercury 7, 89 (1978).

Other awards

Astronomische Gesellschaft, Karl Schwarzschild Medal, 1995.
French Academy of Sciences, Janssen Medal, C. R. Acad. Sci., Sér Gen., Vie Sci. 9, 5, 370 (1992).
National Academy of Sciences, Henry Draper Medal, 1955.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Jansky Lectureship, 1987.
Royal Astronomical Society, Eddington medal, 1955, presented by John Jackson, MNRAS 115, 202 (1955).
Royal Society and COSPAR, Massey Award, 1990.

Biographical materials

Cook, Alan, Biographical Memoirs of the Royal Society, 47, 465–479 (2001).
van de Hulst, H. C., “Roaming Through Astrophysics,” Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys 36, 1 (1998).


Habing, H.J., Astronomy & Geophysics 42, 1, 1.33-1.35 (Feb 2001).
Hovenier, J.W., Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer 68, iii-v (2001).
van delft, Dirk, Reiziger in het wereldruim (Prometheus, 2021) [full biography, in Dutch] [Review
Welther, Barbara L., Bull. Am. Astr. Soc. 32, 1688-89 (2000).

Academic genealogy



AIP Center for History of Physics
Dutch National Archives (via Wikipedia)
Leiden University, Henk van de Hulst: Legacy Celebration

Named after him

Minor planet #2413 van de Hulst [#2412 Wil was named after his wife]


Papers, etc.

The Niels Bohr Library & Archives has oral history interviews from 1978 and 1983.There is much historical information about van de Hulst at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Archives.

Other References: Historical

Search ADS for works about van de Hulst

Edge, David O. & Michael J. Mulkay, Astronomy Transformed: The Emergence of Radio Astronomy in Britain (Wiley, NY, 1976).

Hey, J. S. The Evolution of Radio Astronomy (Science History Publications, New York, 1973).

Lang, Kenneth R. & Owen Gingerich, eds., A Source Book in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 1900-1975 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979), 633-34 [Introduction to reprints of the papers announcing the discovery of the 21 cm radiation of atomic hydrogen.]

National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Oort and van de Hulst — Prediction of 21cm Line Radiation

Oort, J.H., “Measures of the 21-cm Line Emitted by Interstellar Hydrogen,” Vistas in Astronomy 1, 607-16 (1955).

Raimond, Ernst & René Genee, eds., The Westerbork Observatory, Continuing Adventure in Radio Astronomy (Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1996).

Smith, Robert W., et al, The Space Telescope. A Study of NASA, Science, Technology, and Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1993).

Sullivan III, Woodruff T., Cosmic Noise: A History of Early Radio Astronomy (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 2009).

van de Hulst, H.C., “Nanohertz Astronomy,” in Sullivan, III, W. T.,ed., The Early Years of Radio Astronomy: Reflections Fifty Years after Jansky’s Discovery (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge,UK, 1984), 385-98.

van de Hulst, H.C., “1945, The Origin of Radio Waves from Space,” in W.T. Sullivan III, ed., Classics in Radio Astronomy, Studies in the History of Modern Science. Vol. 10 (Reidel, Dordrecht, 1982), 302.

van de Hulst, H.C., Early Radio Astronomy Courses, “A Course in Radio Astronomy, 1951,” National Radio Astronomy Observatory Archives.

van de Hulst, H.C., “Two Great Astrophysicists: Some Personal Reflections,” in N.S. Kardashev, ed., Astrophysics on the Threshold of the 21st Century (Gordon and Breach, Philadelphia, 1992), pp. 1-6.

van de Hulst, H.C., “Seizing Opportunities: Some Comments on the Dutch National Space Programme of the Sixties and Seventies,” in Russo, Arturo, ed., Science Beyond the Atmosphere: The History of Space Research in Europe (European Space Agency, Noordwijk, Netherlands, c. 1993), p. 125-38.

van de Hulst, H.C., “Cosmical Gas Dynamics, Why Was it so Difficult?” Astrophys. & Space Sci. 216, 1 (1994).

van de Hulst, H.C., “Molecules in Astrophysics Half a Century Ago,” in Ewine F. van Dishoeck, ed., 178th IAU Symposium: Molecules in Astrophysics: Probes and Processes (Kluwer, Boston, 1997), p. 13-16.

van de Hulst, H.C., “COSPAR’s First Years: A Personal View,” in G. Haerendel, et al, eds., 40 Years of COSPAR (European Space Agency, 1998), p. 5.


Other References: Scientific

Search ADS for works by van de Hulst

van de Hulst, Hendrik C., “Radio Waves from Space: Origin of Radiowaves,” Ned. tijd. natuurkunde 11, 210-221 (1945). [A portion of this paper is translated and reprinted, with commentary, in Lang, Kenneth R. & Owen Gingerich, eds., A Source Book in Astronomy & Astrophysics, 1900-1975 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1979), 627-32. A translation of the entire paper appears in W.T. Sullivan, III, ed., Classics in Radio Astronomy (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1982).]

van de Hulst, H. C., “Optics of Spherical Particles,” [Ph.D. Thesis] Recherches Astronomiques de l'Observatoire d’Utrecht 11, 1.i-1.87 (1946).

van de Hulst, H. C., The Solid Particles in Interstellar Space (Drukkerij Schotanus & Jens, Utrecht, 1949).

van de Hulst, H.C., “Observations of the Interstellar Hydrogen Line of Wave length 21 cm Made at Kootwijk, Netherlands,” Astronomical Journal 115, 331 (1952).

van de Hulst, H.C., C.A. Muller, & J.H. Oort, “The Spiral Structure of the Outer Part of the Galactic System Derived from the Hydrogen Emission at 21 cm Wavelength,” Bull. Astr. Inst. Netherlands 12, 117-49 (1954).

van de Hulst, H. C., Radio Astronomy (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1957).

van de Hulst, H.C., “Studies of the 21-cm. line and their interpretation (Introductory Lecture),” IAU Symposium 4, 3-13 (1957).

van de Hulst, H.C., “The Distribution of Atomic Hydrogen in the Galaxy,” in Roman, Nancy Grace, ed., Comparison of the Large-Scale Structure of the Galactic System with that of Other Stellar Systems, Proceedings from IAU Symposium no. 5 held in Dublin, 2 September 1955 (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UK, 1958), p. 16.

Greenberg, J.M. & H.C. van de Hulst, eds., Interstellar Dust and Related Topics. International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 52 (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 1973).

van de Hulst, H.C., Light Scattering by Small Particles (Wiley, NY, 1957; Dover, NY, 1981).

van de Hulst, H.C., Multiple Light Scattering: Tables, Formulas, and Applications (Academic Press, NY, 1980).

van de Hulst, H.C., “Space Science Beyond the Solar System,” Space Science Reviews 65, 201-19 (1993).


Other Works: Popularizations, History, etc.

van de Hulst, H.C. & C.A. van Peursen, Phaenomenologie en natuurwetenschap (Bijleveld, Utrecht, 1953).

van Woerden, Hugo, Willem N. Brouw, & H.C. van de Hulst, eds., Oort and the Universe. A Sketch of Oort’s Research and Person (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, Boston, & London, 1980).

van de Hulst, H.C., “Style of Research,” in Hugo van Woerden, Willem N. Brouw, & H.C. van de Hulst, eds., Oort and the Universe. A Sketch of Oort’s Research and Person (D. Reidel, Dordrecht, Boston, & London, 1980), pp. 165-71.