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Murk Bottema (1923 - 1992)

Murk Bottema died on Friday the 3rd of July 1992.

Murk Bottema (no middle name) was born in Velzen, The Netherlands. He studied Physics at the University of Groningen where he received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. He was a research associate of Nobel Prize physicist Fritz Zernicke from 1947 to 1957 and 1962-1964 which shaped his lifelong career in experimental and theoretical optics.

Murk was descended from a long line of highly creative people. In the 16th century his forebear Anne Wyberga established in her will a college student loan fund which still exists. In fact Murk applied for a loan from this fund in 1940 but the award was made to a more "needy" student. Murk's grandfather designed and built what is considered to be the ultimate windmill. It is now in a museum in Delft.

In 1958 Murk came to The Johns Hopkins University to work with Professor John Strong on his ruling and analysis of diffraction gratings for the far and extreme ultraviolet, and later to work with Strong on the design of optical equipment for high altitude balloon experiments, then with Professor H. Warren Moos on the design of rocket-borne telescopes and spectrometers for the study of planetary atmospheres.

In 1968, he joined Ball Brothers Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, where he spent the last 24 years of his life working on a large number and variety of space-related optical instruments, of which his final and crowning achievement was a leading role in the design of corrective optical systems to eliminate the spherical aberrations in the Hubble Space Telescope.

Murk was a quiet man with a gentle sense of humor. A family man. No party goer he, but a gliding enthusiast, a hiker, a lover of classical music, preferably recorded for home consumption.

He died on July 3, 1992, at his home in Boulder, Colorado. He is survived by his wife, Willy, a son, Frank of Boulder, CO, a son Murk of Adelaide, Australia, and a son, Nick of Denver, Colorado.

Over the 30 or so years I knew Murk, I found that his most dominant and endearing characteristic was his insistence that the projects he was involved in were done right. He was much less concerned about receiving credit for the work. If those who thought they were his boss interfered with him, he could be as stubborn as a Dutchman. I know; I tried it once (just once). The world of science and engineering needs more people like that.

Affiliations: 
Obituary Written By: 
Wm. G. Fastie (Dept. of Physics & Astronomy, The Johns Hopkins Universtiy)
BAAS: BAAS, 1992, 24, 1321
DOI: 
10.3847/BAASOBIT1992001