Raf De Bont wins Dr Hendrik Muller Prize

31 October 2019

Raf De Bont, Associate Professor of History at Maastricht University, will this year receive the Dr Hendrik Muller Prize, a sum of 25,000 euros, for his innovative contribution to the history of science and the history of ecology.

In examining the question of how science and modern society have influenced each other, De Bont studies a wide range of subjects, such as the role of the ecological expert in international nature conservation, the relationship between fieldwork and laboratory research, man's changing relationship with ‘wild’ animals, and the representation of science in broader culture.

Photo: Milette Raats

Raf De Bont is one of the leading historians of his generation. His research offers an original perspective on the changing relationship between man and nature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The jury was particularly impressed by De Bont's examination of the various ways in which people in the West have studied, presented and shaped nature. His approach is innovative in that he connects the history of science, culture and ecology in unexpected ways. For example, he investigates the way in which international networks of scientists were able to claim ‘untamed’ nature in the colonies as their field of study. In other research, he examines how nature conservation organisations long made so-called 'primitive' peoples an object of protection.

In his current Vici-grant research project Moving Animals: A History of Science, Media and Policy in the Twentieth Century, De Bont analyses how people have studied, represented and controlled the dispersal of wild animals around the world (e.g. invasions of ‘exotic’ animals, large-scale trade in zoo animals, and the reintroduction of endangered species).

De Bont is a highly productive researcher whose work has been published by leading international science publishers and in journals in fields as diverse as the history of ecology, the study of science and technology, and intellectual history. His 2015 monograph Stations in the Field: A History of Place-Based Animal Research, 1870-1930 garnered positive reviews in leading history of science journals. He received several awards for his dissertation Darwins kleinkinderen: De evolutietheorie in België, 1865-1945.

Appreciation for his work is also reflected in the research funding that he has been awarded, including two grants under the NWO’s Innovational Research Incentives Scheme: a Vici grant for Moving Animals and a Vidi grant for his research into the role of the ecological expert in international nature conservation since the 1920s. De Bont serves on the editorial boards of prominent journals in his field and is a member of The Young Academy.

Raf De Bont

Raf De Bont (Turnhout, 1977) studied history at the University of Leuven (Belgium) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA). In 2005, he obtained his PhD for his thesis on the reception of evolutionary theory in Belgium. Before accepting a position at Maastricht University in 2011, he was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of Leuven and a visiting fellow at Cambridge University and Imperial College London.

Award ceremony and symposium

The prize will be awarded on Thursday 12 December 2019 during a symposium organised by Raf De Bont, with lectures focusing on the history of ecology, literature studies, philosophy and other disciplines. You are cordially invited to attend. The programme will be published shortly on the Academy website.

Dr Hendrik Muller Prize

The Dr Hendrik Muller prize is the successor to the Dr Hendrik Muller Prize for Behavioural and Social Sciences, awarded by the Academy from 1991 to 2017.
The new prize is being awarded for the first time in 2019. The prize is intended for a researcher working in the Netherlands who has made an outstanding contribution to the humanities and/or social sciences and who received his or her PhD no more than 15 years ago.

The prize consists of a sum of 25,000 euros and a certificate. It is intended as a contribution to a research project at the laureate’s discretion. The prize is made possible by Dr Hendrik Muller’s Vaderlandsch Fund, which was established by and is named after Dutch businessman, scientist and diplomat Dr Hendrik Pieter Nicolaas Muller (1859-1941). The Academy assembles the jury and awards the prize.