30 April 2020

Obituary: Johannes Andersen (1943-2020)

Johannes Andersen passed away April 28th 2020.

Johannes was born in Skive during the war in 1943. He graduated from Copenhagen University in 1969 with a gold medal distinction for his thesis on “Astrometric and Photometric Field Corrections of the Brorfelde Schmidt Telescope“. In 1969 he was hired on a research fellowship at the Copenhagen University Observatory and in 1974 after research stays in France and Canada he was hired at Copenhagen University. He formally retired a few years ago.

Johannes Andersen 1943-2020
Johannes Andersen 1943-2020

It is impossible to give Johannes Andersen sufficient credit for all he has done for Danish Astrophysics. First of all, Johannes was a brilliant scientist. He worked in the field of stellar astrophysics, in particular the study of binaries and the different populations of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Together with his wife, Birgitta Nordström, he carried forward and revitalized the heritage from Bengt Strömgren by systematically characterizing the stars in the solar neighbourhood in terms of abundances and kinematics. He authored more than 200 refereed articles including major reviews. He also defended a doctor thesis in the early 1990s on double stars. In addition to this, Johannes worked tirelessly serving the Danish and international community in a wide range of capacities. He was head of the Copenhagen University Observatory, chairman of the European Southern Observatory scientific and technical committee, General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union, director of the Nordic Optical Telescope, just to mention a few of his major contributions. A telling example of his character is from the time when he was Director of the former Astronomical Observatory of Copenhagen University. Due to one of the frequent budget crises he decided to leave Denmark with his family for three years to work in the US to avoid that newly hired young colleagues should be laid off.

Johannes Andersen’s vision was always great. He never just worked to further his own narrow interests, but had the future of the general research field in mind. His importance for the development of the new telescopes and instruments needed to carry astronomical research forward cannot exaggerated.

Johannes was born during the war and in many ways, he was a warrior. As he said himself; The German occupation forces introduced marshal law, when I was born. He never spared himself, he seemed to be always working. Receiving emails past 3 o’clock in the middle of the night and seeing him next morning at nine at the institute was common. On April 28th his life ended. He leaves us with an enormous sense of gratitude and he will live on with us as a shining example of how the responsibility of serving a community can be done.
Honored be his memory.  

Due to Corona there will be a memorial gathering for family and friends at a later stage.