100 years of female professors

Johanna the first

Johanna Westerdijk gave her inaugural lecture on 10 February 1917. After her appointment, she made extra efforts in support of female students. She preferred to hire female students in her laboratory, for instance. Of the 56 students who took their PhD under her supervision, over half were female.

Easy? No...

Johanna's career was not easy. As she had not taken the correct courses, she was not able to take her PhD in the Netherlands. She could in Munich, but they had a problem with her being a woman. When she was finally appointed to her position, she decided never to exclude anyone. 'Are you struggling somewhere else? Come and work for me.'

The third gender

For a long time, women were known as the 'third gender'. And fungi were seen as third rate in the animal and plant realms. They were often associated with the underworld, witches and gnomes. But Westerdijk took fungi out of the shadows, pointing out that the world would die without fungi. And with it, she put scientific women in the spotlight.

Still relevant

Westerdijk' s research is still important. Fungi can potentially help solve many major societal problems such as antibiotic resistance, the depletion of fossil fuels and failed harvests as a result of plant disease. For example, 25% of all harvests fail due to plant diseases, including fungal diseases. Research into plant diseases and their prevention is still topical and important if we want to feed the world's population.

Women in science

Westerdijk is still a role model for today's women in science. Half of all students are female, but only 18% make it to professor. In honour of Johanna Westerdijk, Bussemaker made 5 million euros available to female professors. Hopefully, these kinds of initiatives will help bridge the gap.

Time Machine
© 2023 Utrecht Time Machine
Geolocation is not supported by this browser
You have denied the use of geolocation
Geolocation information is unavailable
Geolocation request timed out
An unknown error occurred
Time Machine