In memoriam Prof. C.A. (Kees) Smolders


The EMS mourns the loss of Professor Kees Smolders, Honorary Member of our Society since 1991, who passed away on 4 January 2021 at the age of 90.


Kees Smolders was a true pioneer in the field of Membrane Technology. He worked as a full professor between 1969 and 1991 at the THT (‘Technische Hogeschool Twente’), renamed to UT (University of Twente) in 1986. While he started out as a professor in Colloid and Interface Chemistry, he was one of the first in the Netherlands to focus on a new field: the field of membranes. He was unique in his persuasiveness, making many others, scientists and businesses alike, enthusiastic for a field of science that was very new at the time. He quickly became a leading scientist in this field, especially through his work on understanding phase inversion that still has a high number of citations to this day. Kees Smolders was one of the first professors to co-operate with companies actively: he was, for example, actively involved in the start-up of X-Flow in the eighties, helping the UT to establish itself as the entrepreneurial university that it is today. Kees Smolders supervised nearly 40 PhD students. The research that he started more than 50 years ago is still actively continued at the UT within the current Membrane Science and Technology (MST) cluster.

After his retirement, he picked up painting, using acrylates, and later he also took up bronze sculpting. In 2016, Kees Smolders donated one of his works of art, appropriately named “The Science Ladder”, to the UT, which is still proudly exhibited in one of the University buildings. The sculpture shows a small man climbing up a double DNA helix. Kees Smolders described it in his own words: “It shows how you can grow in science. Scientists always want to climb to the top, to build up the best reputation.”

Professor Kees Smolders will be remembered a visionary scientist and one of the initiators of membrane research in Europe. The EMS whishes his family, friends and the Membrane Science and Technology cluster at the University of Twente all strength to deal with this loss.