CWI grieved by death of former director Cor Baayen

CWI's former director Cor Baayen passed away last Wednesday. Baayen served as the institute’s director from 1980 to 1994. During this period he played a key role in shaping computer science as a distinct scientific field. Under his leadership CWI transformed from a mathematical institute to a center of expertise for both mathematics and computer science.

Publication date: 24-05-2019

It is with great sadness that we learned that our former director Cor Baayen passed away last Wednesday, 22 May. Baayen served as the institute’s director from 1980 to 1994. During this period he played a key role in shaping computer science as a distinct scientific field. Under his leadership CWI transformed from a mathematical institute to a center of expertise for both mathematics and computer science.

Baayen started his first tenure at our institute in 1959, when it was still named Mathematisch Centrum (MC). He was appointed leader of the pure mathematics group at MC in 1965, as well as professor of mathematics at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

Remarkable growth
When Baayen took the helm as scientific director in 1980, he immediately had to deal with diminishing funds for academic research. One of the most notable strategies to secure MC’s future, was to incorporate the institute in the first Dutch national ICT funding scheme. This fitted perfectly with a broadening of the institute’s focus towards computer science. A milestone in this transformation is the renaming of the institute to CWI (Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica) in 1983.

During this period CWI also expanded its work in applied mathematics. In a time of major budget cuts, the institute was able to show a remarkable growth – not just in quantity, but most notably in quality of research.

European consortium
On an international level Baayen will also be remembered as one of the founders of the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) in 1989. The consortium grew out to become one of Europe’s most ambitious associations in this field. It aims to foster collaborative work within the European research community and to increase cooperation with European industry.

Baayen served as president from 1991 to 1994. ERCIM honours Baayen’s legacy with its annual Cor Baayen Young Researcher Award, for promising young researchers in computer science or applied mathematics.

KWG
In the Netherlands, Cor Baayen was a member of the board of the  Dutch Royal Mathematical Society (Koninlijk Wiskundig Genootschap - KWG)  from 1965 to 1981, of which three years as chairman. Because of his longstanding  commitment and great merits to the Society in particular and mathematics in general, he was appointed honorary member of the KWG in 2004.

Inspiring leader
CWI’s current director Jos Baeten remembers Baayen as an inspiring leader. ‘When I started as a group leader at CWI, back in the 1980s, I was struck by his deep empathy. During this period CWI was faced with the challenge of restructuring the institute. Cor took the lead in implementing a crucial change of course. Yet, he always felt a major responsibility for the well-being of his staff.’