Physicist Hans Pieter Roetert Frederikse, 87; He Advanced the Understanding of Electrons

Hans Pieter Roetert Frederikse
Hans Pieter Roetert Frederikse (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hans Pieter Roetert Frederikse, 87, an internationally renowned solid-state physicist who worked for 43 years at the National Institute for Science and Technology in Gaithersburg, died March 6 at his home in Kensington. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Dr. Frederikse came to Washington in 1953, when he joined the staff of NIST's predecessor, the National Bureau of Standards. He studied the properties of semiconductors and directed the solid-state physics division from 1956 to 1978. His work led to a new understanding of electronic band structures, or the energy range of electrons.

In a letter to Dr. Frederikse's colleagues, 1987 Nobel Prize winners in physics J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alexander M¿ller said Dr. Frederikse's studies on the possible existence of superconductivity in strontium titanate helped lead to their discovery of high temperature superconductivity.

Dr. Frederikse was born July 13, 1920, in The Hague and studied physics at Leiden University. In 1940, after Nazi forces had occupied the Netherlands, he helped lead a student protest against the Nazis' dismissal of Jewish professors, which led to the closing of the university.

Because of his work as a laboratory assistant, Dr. Frederikse was able to remain in Leiden when many of his student colleagues were shipped to labor camps in Germany. During World War II, he took part in the Dutch underground resistance movement and helped find hiding places for Jewish children whose parents had been sent to German concentration camps. He often took them to rural foster homes on his bicycle. After the war, he helped reunite the children with returning parents they had not seen in years.

In addition to his underground activities, Dr. Frederikse carried on independent scientific research throughout the war and received a master's degree when Leiden University reopened in 1945. Among his other laboratory work, he sometimes refined sugar -- then a scarce commodity -- from beets.

While traveling through Germany to an international conference in 1947, Dr. Frederikse was shocked at the devastated condition of German cities. As chairman of Leiden University's Christian student council, he led an effort build a peaceful bond between German and Dutch students.

With support from British and Canadian organizations, he organized a group of 60 Dutch and German students to rebuild a damaged academic building at the University of M¿nster in Germany. One of the German students was Helmut Schmidt, who became the West German chancellor in 1974.

The students' cooperative efforts inspired other international groups, including several from the United States, to participate in postwar rebuilding efforts in Germany and Europe.

After receiving his doctorate in physics from Leiden University in 1950, Dr. Frederikse received a Fulbright grant to study and teach at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956. In 1961, he returned to the Netherlands for a year to study on a Guggenheim fellowship.

Dr. Frederikse received the Department of Commerce Gold Medal for "profound advances in fundamental knowledge of solid-state physics" in 1963. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and a corresponding member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He served on the national Solid State Advisory Panel and contributed an article on semiconductors to the second edition of the American Institute of Physics Handbook. He was also associate editor of the "Handbook of Chemistry and Physics."

He retired in 1996 and was inducted into the NIST Gallery of Distinguished Scientists, Engineers and Administrators in 2007.

His interests included sailing and the arts.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, Yolanda Rossi Frederikse of Kensington; three children, Julie Frederikse of Durban, South Africa, Peter Frederikse of Maplewood, N.J., and Tom Frederikse of London; and seven grandchildren.

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