Westerdijk, Johanna

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Westerdijk, Johanna Gender: F
born on 4 January 1883 at 04:00 (= 04:00 AM )
Place Nieuwer-Amstel, Netherlands, 52n18, 4e51
Timezone LMT m4e51 (is local mean time)
Data source
BC/BR in hand
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Astrodienst
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_capcol.18.gif 13°30' s_mo.18.gif s_scocol.18.gif 12°09 Asc.s_scocol.18.gif 20°58'

Johanna Westerdijk


Dutch plant pathologist who became the first female professor in the Netherlands.

She was the eldest daughter of Bernard Westerdijk (5 June 1853, Assen - 13 May 1927, Baarn), physician, and Aleida Catharina Scheffer (5 April 1857, Den Bosch - 16 May 1931, Baarn). Johanna Westerdijk never married. Her brother Tidde Westerdijk (15 May 1885, Amsterdam - 5 may 1950, Haarle) was a mathematician and became director of NV Salm en Kipp. Her sister Maria Westerdijk (1890-?) married in 1920 Pieter Leendertz.

Johanna, called "Hans" by friends, was a gifted pianist. During her elementary school years she always refused to take embroidery classes or play with dolls like most of the girls of her time. Instead she enjoyed reading stories to other girls at her school, she mentioned to her teacher that she will make sure to earn enough money to have all her cleaning duties done for her. As a listener she took classes at the Amsterdam girls' hbs, but she never did her final exams. However, she followed - again as an observer - lectures in biology at the University of Amsterdam. In the laboratory of Hugo de Vries she was initiated under the guidance of his assistant CJJ van Hall in a then new scientific direction: phytopathology (plant pathology). After having obtained her plant and zoology (K-IV) in 1904, she became a phytopathological researcher at the professors K. Göbel (Munich) and H. Schinz (Zürich).

In 1907 Johanna Westerdijk became director of the CBS (Centraalbureau voor Schimmelculteres); in honour of Johanna Westerdijk’s life and work, on 10th of February 2017 the institute was renamed to Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute. In 1906 she obtained her doctorate for the regeneration of liver meadows.

Your own institute

In the same year 1906 - only 23 years old - Johanna Westerdijk became director of the Phytopathological Laboratory Willie Commelin Scholten, located in a house on the Amsterdam Roemer Visscherstraat. Pragmatic as she was, she managed to develop this laboratory into a leading scientific research institution. In 1907, the Centraal Bureau voor Schimmelcultures, founded in 1903, joined. Under Westerdijk's leadership, the Bureau with 11,000 species soon became the largest mold collection in the world. Her laboratory therefore mainly focused on income from the sale of fungi.

In 1913, Johanna Westerdijk went on a study trip to the Dutch East Indies to study the diseases of tropical crop plants. The outbreak of the First World War forced her to travel back via Japan and the United States. In the US she gave lectures that drew a lot of attention. This way she built up excellent international contacts. In 1917 she became extraordinary professor of phytopathology in Utrecht - and the first female professor in the Netherlands. Westerdijk managed to get the board to buy the Java country house in Baarn for her tightly housed institute, close to the Cantonspark, which had recently been donated as a botanical garden at Utrecht University. In 1920 the move took place. The involvement of this building, with kitchen garden and greenhouses, was one of the highlights in Westerdijk's career, and a great stimulus for the research. The first promotion under her leadership was in 1922 . In addition, biology students from other universities also showed interest in phytopathology. So became Westerdijk was also an extraordinary professor at the University of Amsterdam in 1930. She was also co-founder of the Dutch Association of Women with an Academic Training and was active in the International Federation of University Women . At the congress of 1932 she was elected president of the Federation, with her extensive knowledge of languages ​​she came in handy.

Because her eyes deteriorated, Westerdijk had to leave more and more work to her employees, but she remained a formidable organizer who guided her fungal cultures with art and flight work through the war years by, among other things, creating an emergency stock of agar-agar (a culture medium). Because of her scientific merit she was appointed in 1951 as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received honorary doctorates in Uppsala (1957) and Giessen (1958). When Westerdijk resigned in 1952, she was able to look back on 56 promotions. After her farewell, she managed the fungus cultures until 1958. Johanna Westerdijk died in November 1961, 78 years old.


Johanna Westerdijk was the first female professor in the Netherlands. She has been an international leader in her field for many years. Because under her leadership a lot of research has been done into Dutch Iepen (elm) disease . Westerdijk was known as hospitable, musical and a great lover of parties. Above the door of the laboratory hung the text "Werken en feesten vormt grote geesten" (work and feasts forms beautiful spirits). On occasion, all tables went aside and she crept behind the piano to sing Jordan songs or make other music (The Jordaan of Amsterdam was the Jewish Viertel). According to VJ Koningsberger, she was 'someone of imperturbable life, indomitable energy and compelling enthusiasm, perhaps at times somewhat overconfident in her aversion to senseless convention and dependence'. She also had an eye for hidden talent: with her enthusiasm she managed to bring average students to unexpectedly high levels.

She was honoured many times:

Member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1951)

Fellow of the Linnean Society of London

Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)

Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion (Netherlands)

Knight in the Order of Saint James of the Sword (Portugal)

Otto Appel Medal (1953) (established for outstanding plant pathologists) at Heidelberg.

Honorary doctorate of the Uppsala University (1957)

Honorary doctorate of the University of Giessen (1958)

Under the title Een beetje opstandigheid (A little revolt), science historian Patricia Faasse (born 14 July 1964, 22h15 at Vlissingen) published a biography of Johanna Westerdijk in 2012. In 2017, universities and scientific organizations celebrated the 'Westerdijk year' with activities and initiatives on women in science and the development of the phytopathology field.

Link to Wikipedia


  • Work : Gain social status 10 February 1917 in Utrecht (Extraordinary proffesor of phytopathology)
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  • Death of Father 13 May 1927 in Baarn (Bernard Westerdijk (Eastern Dyke))
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  • Death of Mother 16 May 1931 in Baarn (Aleida Catharina Scheffer)
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  • Death of Sibling 5 May 1950 in Hellendoorn (Tidde Westerdijk, born 15 May 1885, Amsterdam)
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  • Death, Cause unspecified 15 November 1961 in Baarn
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  • Social : Great Publicity July 2013 (Biography by Patricia Faasse: Een beetje opstandigheid Johanna Westerdijk. De eerste vrouwelijke hoogleraar van Nederland.)
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Source Notes

svi retrieved BC from online municipal archive of Nieuwer-Amstel: 4 January 1883 4 AM.

KNAW biography: Westerdijk, Johanna (1883-1961)


  • Family : Relationship : Married late/never (and delegated 56 promotions)
  • Vocation : Science : Biology (professor of phytopathology)
  • Notable : Awards : Other Awards (Knigthed and several honorary doctorates)
  • Notable : Famous : First in Field