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Jaap Sinninghe Damsté wins Heineken prize for academic oeuvre

The Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam has announced that Professor Jaap Sinninghe Damsté has been awarded the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences. He and the five other winners will receive their prizes of US$200,000 each (approximately 145,000) on 2 October.


Prize for oeuvre

The Earth’s crust contains tens of thousands of chemical compounds. The deeper you dig, the older the strata, and consequently the older the substances in these strata. Careful detective work allows you to find molecules that provide information on the climate and the sea temperature at the time of deposition.

Jaap Sinninghe Damsté is Head of Department at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and Professor of Organic Geochemistry at Utrecht University. KNAW announced today that he has been awarded the prestigious 2014 Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences, worth US$200,000, for his oeuvre.


“The Earth’s crust contains huge numbers of molecules that can tell us something about the past,” says Sinninghe Damsté. “Many of these substances, such as plants’ chlorophyll, can still be found in petroleum after millions of years. By subjecting the Earth’s strata to intense chemical treatments we can identify the molecules and obtain information from these chemical fossils. What was the terrestrial climate like ninety million years ago? Or how warm were the oceans then? I often feel like a detective searching in the geological archives for clues of a long-lost past.”

Other awards

Sinninghe Damsté has been awarded various prizes in the past thirty years. He was awarded the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) Spinoza Premium in 2004 and an ERC Advanced Grant in 2008, while in late 2013 it was announced that he had been appointed to lead the Netherlands Earth System Science Centre (NESSC), a national collaboration project originating from NWO‘s Gravity programme funding.

Award ceremony

The 2014 Heineken prizes will be presented at a special meeting of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences to be held at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam on Thursday 2 October 2014.