Dominated by its medieval moated castle, the small Dutch market town of ’s-Heerenberg stands a few miles from Arnhem close to the German border. Casper Hakfoort was born into this rural community on 6 January 1955 and he returned to it to be buried shortly after his death on 4 March 1999. In the intervening forty-five years Casper had travelled far from his roots in this small agricultural town and played a significant – but tragically curtailed – role in the international history of science community.
As a bright pupil at school in ’s-Heerenberg he was attracted to the study of physics. Deciding to pursue further studies in this area he registered at the Catholic University of Nijmegen in 1973, transferring to the University of Utrecht two years later and obtaining his first degree in 1980. However, physics did not fully satisfy his intellectual strivings and he sought answers to fundamental questions that are not engaged in most physics courses. This dissatisfaction prompted him to forsake the study of physics and instead to register for a Ph.D. in the history of science under the supervision of Professor H. A. M. Snelders at the University of Utrecht, where he studied from 1980 to 1985. In the following year he successfully defended his dissertation, entitled ‘Optica in de eeuw van Euler’, later published in Amsterdam, in 1986.
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