Dirk Feil (1933 – 2020)


Dirk Feil (1933-2020); credit photo M. Luizink

Dirk (Dick) Feil passed away on the 22nd of April 2020 at the age of 87.  Dirk Feil was born in Zeist, the Netherlands, in 1933.  Married in 1958, Dirk and his young wife Annet set out to see something of the world.  In 1959, despite misgivings about the apartheid regime, Dirk took up a lectureship at Cape Town University in South Africa, which itself was opposed to apartheid. The experience was, as Dirk recalled, formative.  Dick Feil received his PhD in 1961 under Professor J. M. Bijvoet.

In 1964 the family returned to Enschede where, three months after the creation of the TH Twente, Dirk assumed the position of lecturer in physical chemistry.  Two years later he was appointed professor in chemical physics.  Thus began an association that was to span 55 years.  In 1998 Dirk was appointed Professor Emeritus, the same year in which he retired.  Post retirement Dirk maintained an active interest and participation in university life.

Dirk’s research largely focused on the interaction between quantum chemistry and crystallography.  He loved the beauty of theoretical formulations, Maxwells’ equation being a particular delight.  He was one of the early group of crystallographers to use experimental x-ray diffraction data to determine charge density and electrostatic potentials, and to compare them with theoretical calculations.

Dirk loved to teach.  A gifted and enthusiastic teacher he taught and mentored many students over a long period.  His lab was always welcoming to visitors, readily accepting them as colleagues and oftentimes providing access to computing and other resources.  He was actively involved in the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), the Dutch Crystallographic Society (NKV) and in the inception of the European Crystallographic Association (ECA) in 1972.  He was also an excellent speaker and gave many memorable talks at various conferences and meetings.

Beyond his scientific and lecturing duties Dirk was integral to the creation of the Committee for International Cooperation and Assistance Twente (CICA-Twente), resulting in projects in Bandung, Nigeria, and Zambia.  In 1975 he initiated a group dedicated to development studies, the Department of Developmental Studies (VOK).

Outside university life Dirk was a keen camper and sailor, vacations often spent with family on the  many lakes and waterways that span the Netherlands.  Active in his local community, Dirk was a passionate advocate for the environment and equality.

Dirk was resolute in his conviction that dialogue and exchange of ideas were essential to understanding and overcoming differences, a conviction that he applied equally to both his scientific work and to his championing of social issues.

Drs Grant and Barbara Moss, Melbourne, Australia