The history of Van der Waals has been written up and
until the year 2000 by Frans Snik, secretary of the board 1999/2000, “Evolutie:
tempora mutantur”, for the lustrum almanac “Attractie”, celebrating the eight
lustrum of SVTN “J.D. van der Waals”.
The history of Van der Waals has been translated and extended up and until the year 2020 by Rein Albers, Commissioner of Lustrum of the board 2019/2020, “Apollo: Shoot for the moon”, for the lustrum almanac “ ‘Round The Clock”, celebrating the twelfth lustrum of SVTN “J.D. van der Waals”.
In the beginning there was no physics, at least not at the THE (Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven). The physics and mathematics courses were organized by the department of Algemene Wetenschappen (General Sciences), which was housed in the Paviljoen building. These courses were part of the curricula of Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. However, in 1958, only one year after the THE was founded, this mistake was recognized. The THE decided to offer a separate study program, Applied Physics, which started in September 1960.
Every study is unequivocally connected to a study association. These associations already existed for the three previously mentioned studies. A group of first-generation physics students, most of whom switched to Applied Physics from Electrical Engineering, decided that the new Applied Physics program also deserved its own association. They established a committee that consisted of Piet van Dalen, Johan van der Heide, Piet Janssen, and Hans Papenhuysen. After a short period of preparations, all Applied Physics students were gathered in the hexagonal room in the Paviljoen building for the foundation of the study association on the 6th of October 1960. The association was named Studievereniging Voor Technische Natuurkunde “Johannes Diderik van der Waals”, translated as Study Association for Applied Physics “Johannes Diderik van der Waals”. With the hit of an ashtray on a table, the foundation of the association was concluded (see photo). Thereafter the provisory statutes were recited and the members of the first board were inaugurated. The yearly contribution was set to be ƒ7 (€ 3,18). Apart from all new physics students (Thor lost some members, and Simon Stevin lost one), also a couple of interns from Philips became members. These interns were a bit older (and wiser) on average, which made them an asset to the young association.
The first letter ever received by the new association contained the congratulations of J.D. van der Waals Jr., professor in physics at the University of Amsterdam. A bit later, the dean of the Department of Applied Physics helped by sending a request to J.D. Van der Waals Jr. for some replicas of Van der Waals’ Nobel Prize medal. He agreed and provided the association with five medals. These replicas were worn by board members on official occasions.
Once the association was properly founded, the members of the new board started to give shape to the association. Because the new association did not have a board room available yet, they mostly worked in the offices of several professors. It is self-explanatory that the ties with the department were very strong. But members of Van der Waals did not only hang around in the offices of the professors, they were also present in the offices of their secretaries. In there they could use the telephone free of charge in exchange for some chocolates. However, it wasn’t that innocent for long. It was no exception that a secretary got asked out for dinner by a board member, which has even led to some marriages.
One of the tasks of the board was to have an advisory role in designing the curriculum of the new study program Applied Physics. They gladly did this, whether their help was requested or not. Especially the first-year students seemed to experience quite some problems. Therefore, Van der Waals successfully lobbied to revise the first-year curriculum. Later, the department requested Van der Waals to help the younger students with their studies, which caused the roughly 200 physics students from all ages to intermingle to become a tight-knit association. This was unusual at that time, because study associations used to be quite business-like. Relaxation and pleasure were provided by the corpora, or student organizations. However, Van der Waals quickly developed a friendly atmosphere, which resulted in Van der Waals lunches, coffee breaks, Christmas dinners, and eventually the formation of the first fraternity. Most physics students took part in these activities, because all physics students used to be Van der Waals members, even though Van der Waals did not sell books at the time.
But still, Van der Waals mainly focused on study-oriented activities, such as organizing guest lectures and scientific movie nights. In 1963, the study tour abroad was organized for the first time. The Binnenlandse Excursie (BiEx, a study trip within The Netherlands) already existed somewhat longer, the association usually visited a high-tech company such as Philips.
Financially, Van der Waals entirely depended on donations from the department and other benefectors. All lecturers as well as prime minister De Quay used to contribute to the association. The prime minister of that time had already pledged his support when he was still working at the regional government of the province Noord-Brabant. Since then, the association has always had benefactors and contributors. In the 90’s, the possibility was created to become “contributer for life” for ƒ150, -. Some department members thought this sum was too little, so also the possibility to become “contributer for life and thereafter” was created.
In 1961, it was decided that Van der Waals would start to publish its own magazine. Adri Verhoeven became the first editor-in-chief, and probably because of his background in journalism, the magazine was named “Koerier”. The function of editor-in-chief quickly became as important as being a member of the board. Koerier was published eight times during its first year of existence and quickly became loved and widely read by all physics students. At first, the entire magazine was stenciled in black-and-white, but in its second year, a colored cover was added. In 1965, the editors of the Koerier produced the first lustrum book.
While the first-years of the association were marked by growth and enthusiasm, it soon went downhill. Already in 1962, the board stopped wearing tailcoats, although that was mainly caused by a big change in Dutch culture that happened around that time: the so-called democratization. The official character of the association became a point of discussion, and the number of General Assemblies (GA) decreased. During the occupation of the THE in 1964, Van der Waals received a letter that their support was not desired. The lustrum book of 1965 first mentions a decrease in members, and even a shortage of active members. In 1967 it all went wrong…
The board of 1967-1968 was not chosen by the GA, but by a special committee. The year after, they could not find any successors, so out of necessity this board had to continue for another year as a board ‘ad interim’. However, this was not because the board members carried the association this close to their hearts. One of those board members, now a respected professor, once declared he “didn’t do anything” in those years. He still wonders how the association was able to form a new board after the interim year. Only the duties of the treasurer were performed with any care, for instance the first parties were given around that time with any access money the association had.
The lack of interest to the association that the board had at that time is illustrated by the fact that all five replicas of the Van der Waals Nobel Prize medal disappeared. They were probably claimed as personal property by some previous or current board members. In 1969, the move from the Paviljoen to the new N-laag building took place. The university used to have plans for an N-hoog building as well somewhere in between the W-hoog and N-laag buildings. But these plans were later cancelled because of disappointing numbers of new students. During this move, most of the Van der Waals archive was lost.
The only two things that kept Van der Waals alive were the Study Tour Abroad and Koerier. However, Koerier had lost its meaning as a magazine for the association but became a voice of protest and rebellion. In Koerier, articles were published about the conflicts between social classes within the department. One article once said that the title of professor is meaningless, and even proposed to start addressing the lunch ladies with the professor title.
The rebellion between Van der Waals and the department was partly caused by the introduction of the WUB (‘Wet Universitaire Bestuurshervorming’, or in English ‘Law of University Management Reform’). This stopped the student participation in university matters, to suppress further turmoil amongst the students. Communication about education became more difficult so a new Education Committee was started in 1967. From 1967 on, Van der Waals even had an commissioner of education, but the students were not completely satisfied with that. In 1981 STOOR, the STudenten Onderwijs ORganisatie (STudent educatiOn ORganization) was founded. This organization was independent from Van der Waals, but the two organizations have been working together closely. After two years, STOOR continued to handle all education related matters, and therefore Van der Waals no longer appointed an commissioner of education. STOOR also started publishing its own paper, the STOORzender, which later merged with Koerier.
In the middle of the 70’s, Van der Waals became more active again, and still with a strong social character. For instance, a special committee was installed to make sure all paper was recycled and delivered to a homeless shelter. And on a field trip to a nuclear power plant, the participants wore anti-nuclear energy pins clearly in sight on their clothes. This was all in sharp contrast to Thor, which always strived to remain their corporal character. In 1968, a motion was passed that allowed Thor members to become members of Van der Waals as well for only ƒ2,50, if they felt like their interests were not represented properly by Thor. However, when several Thor members tried to appeal to that right, it was denied by the board of Van der Waals. Also, a collaboration with the VvTP , the association for Applied Physics in Delft, was attempted, but that never really saw the daylight.
From 1978 on, Koerier was published again. It contained loads of drawings by Dick Sterenborgh, and the articles had a more positive tone than before. Until 1983, Koerier was printed using the stencil machine from the department. However, it was decided that Koerier had to be printed more professionally, because this machine tended to break quite often.
With the founding of the Borrel in 1978 a new era for Van der Waals started. This was an era with much more recreational activities and more fun in the association. Van der Waals started to organize many games and sports tournaments. The association was actively involved in the introduction for first-year students, which resulted in many new members. As a follow-up on the introduction, the Magdeburg Hemisphere events were organized from 1980 on. Students had to design and build a construction that used sound waves to increase the pressure inside the hemispheres. The goal was to disconnect the hemispheres as fast as possible. The event was once even broadcasted on national television by the TROS. Later on, fraternity PerpeTUE Mobile took over this tradition. Hereafter, the Magdeburg Hemispheres were used by the Natuurkundecircus (Physics Circus), which unfortunately stopped in 2016.
Another big event that originated around this time is the annual Sinterwaals celebration. The board starts the preparations for this event right after their inauguration. Sinterwaals made fun of department members and students alike before giving them a little present. Therefore, Sinterwaals was infamous, and even slightly feared. Many times, Van der Waals members tried to prevent Sinterwaals from putting on his costume or even from arriving at all. But if he managed to arrive in N-laag, the entire cafeteria was usually filled with students as well as department members. Sinterwaals had a habit of entering the cafeteria in spectacular ways: with a ladder through the window, on a bike, or with a bottle of beer in one hand and his staff in the other.
In 1985, the lustrum was celebrated extensively for the first time. A massive lustrum book was written on an even more massive mainframe computer. An extension on this book containing scientific publications was edited by Professor Sarlemijn, which is why it got assigned an ISBN number. Fun fact: this book was even mentioned in J.D. Van der Waals’ biography. As a part of this lustrum a reunion was organized as well, where the first board performed a sketch. This board had prepared another surprise: the association received seven new replicas of Van der Waals’ Nobel Prize medal. Later on, three more were commissioned because, according to the statutes, Van der Waals can officially have a maximum of nine board members.
At the end of the 80’s, Van der Waals started to become a more structured organization, and almost all physics students became members. Regularly, GA’s and BLV’s (Bijzondere LedenVergaderingen, or in English Extraordinary Member Meetings) were organized. The statutes and internal rules were completely examined and revised in 1982. On request of the deparment, Van der Waals started promoting studying physics at high schools as well.
Two years after the first computer was bought, a second was purchased. This time without any big troubles at the GA. The possibility to learn how to work with a computer was for many members a reason to get started in a committee. The number of active members increased with the purchase of this computer.
1990 was the first year, since 1977, that no Study Tour Abroad (STA) was organized. The plans where already made though. The tour would have gone to Israel, but due to an unforeseen war between Iraq and Kuwait the tour was cancelled. In December of that same year, it turned out that not Sadam Hoessein, but Sinterwaals was the big brain behind the cancellation of the STA. During the Sinterwaals celebration he entered the room in a war costume with great fanfare.
The 90’s were the start of many of the still known activities. Up until then, First-year students were welcome at the Borrel, but nothing was organized for the first-years. In 1992, a First Years’ Weekend was organized for the first time and the “smoelenboek” (a yearbook for first years) was published. Also the N-parties, which were just ordinary Borrels until 2 a.m, were transformed into crowded parties. After the success of the lustrum almanac 1960-1990, an ordinary almanac 1991-1992 was published for the first time.
In 1993, a student house got the name Van der Waals house for the first time. The residents of the house got a Van der Waals flag in possession. A second flag was possessed by the board. The flags, which are used as GA flags now, were a wanted item to keep in safety, in order to blackmail the residents or sometimes the board.
The board 1994-1995 didn’t take their dress code very seriously. They appeared in kilts, with their motto: “Tijd voor een nieuw beleid” (Time for a new policy). This board has done a lot to unburden the environment, for instance Koerier was printed on chlorine-free recycled paper.
The seventh lustrum was the first lustrum which was given a name: Interactie. This lustrum was celebrated for a whole week. A big party was organized with Pater Moeskroen, and also a reunion, a sporting tournament and various lectures were organized. For the first time in the history of Van der Waals, a gala was organized. This gala was accessible for both students and staff members.
After the lustrum of 1995, Van der Waals had to move. All student facilities were moved to the G-wing of N-laag. With a lot of help from Joep Beckers, the old Van-der-Waalsroom was moved to a new location. De ‘Salon’ moved to the “kopzaal” on the ground floor of the G-wing, Van der Waals got an archive room and STOOR was housed in the G-wing of N-laag. From now on, the ground floor of the G-wing was known as the student wing.
A tradition was started by boards to leave their logo somewhere around the board room, after their board year. The pillars of de ‘Salon’ were painted Borrelgreen and clocks were painted on them, which were set on five minutes before 12 o’clock. This was the logo of “Tijd voor een nieuw beleid”. A year later, the board “Metamorfose” painted a huge frog on the wall between the doors of the Van-der-Waalsroom. The board “Contrast” claimed the space between the doors to paint their own logo, also the pillars had been painted over.
The eighth lustrum of Van der Waals was prepared by the board ‘Evolutie: tempora mutantur’. This board took Van der Waals further into the digital era. A website committee was founded to give the Van der Waals website a more professional appearance. The eighth lustrum was grandly celebrated, with a party with music of BZB, a gala, a symposium and a lustrum stunt. Also, a lustrum almanac was created with an extensive history. After 40 years, Van der Waals reached a status we still know nowadays.
After this lustrum, the board Equilibrium, known of the trolley, oversaw the association. During this year, a lot of rivalry started between the different FSE (Federation of Study associations Eindhoven) associations. For example, the pedelstaf of Thor had been brassed and cast in 300 kilos of concrete. Thor even sent a piece of concrete back. This piece of concrete has been present in the archives of Van der Waals for a long time. The ninth lustrum board had the name: ‘Inspiratie’. This board started the tradition where the board would wear orange board ties. The lustrum “Go with the flow” was prepared. Also, Koerier received a big makeover during this year. The format changed from A5 to B5 and the cover was redesigned. The STA to Japan had problems with recruiting participants for the tour. The decision was made that also first years could join the tour that year. The lustrum stunt, a balloon inflator machine, wasn’t finished on time and was never completed. The lustrum was successful, yet not as grand as five years earlier.
In 2010 a card system was introduced at the Borrel, which checks whether you were a (staff) member of the department. Also, the last Koerier was published. After 49 years it was time for something new. Together with VENI and STOOR a new departmental magazine was founded: the N!.
After the celebration of the tenth lustrum, the plans that were being made for a new building of the Department of Applied Physics, Electrical Engineering were getting more clear. What surprised the students is the lack of room for Van der Waals. As a replacement of the G-wing, Van der Waals got a very small room in ‘Project 2’, which was the name for Flux at that time. The Borrel could use a small part of the canteen on Thursday afternoons. Luckily, some students expressed their displeasure about this. Via the departmental council, this criticism was sent to the executive board of the TU/e. But even though the department supported Van der Waals, the executive board didn’t seem to take this problem serious enough. Time for action!
On January 12th, 2012, the Borrelrooms of Van der Waals and Thor were closed. Armed with orange balloons and a tap full of orange lemonade, a Borrel was organized in front of the office of the executive board in the “Hoofdgebouw” (now known as Atlas). The special part about this demonstration was, that not only members, but also a lot of staff from the department were present. With the presence of the Eindhoven newspaper, the executive board promised a room in which a Borrel could take place. Or as the newspaper called it: “Borrel Van der Waals is gered’.
In the meantime, a lot of negotiation took place for a temporary spot of the Van-der-Waalsroom and the Borrel. Because there was a gap of two and a half years between the demolition of N-laag and the opening of Flux. A new location for the Borrel and Van der Waals had to be found. With help of the (former-)board members, departmental council and many staff members, a suitable solution was found: Van der Waals would be housed in the Cascade building.
To relieve the tasks of the board and to keep a sharp eye on the move to Flux, a moving committee was founded during the GA of March 4, 2013. The committee consisted of a former-, current-, and a candidate board member together with the student advisor of Applied physics. The committee would make plans for the installation of the new bar, but also assisted the department in organizing the different rooms in Flux. Eventually, on August 31, 2015 Flux opened its doors for both the department and Van der Waals. The 11th lustrum “Back to the future” of the board Scintillatie (2014/2015) was the first lustrum celebrated in Flux.
Two years after the move to Flux, the Bachelor Applied Physics became an English Bachelor from the academic year 2017/2018 onwards. All courses started with English lectures and the TU/e welcomed its first international bachelor students to the Department of Applied Physics. This also influenced the being of Van der Waals, since it had been a Dutch association from the start. A year earlier, during the board year of Equinox (2016/2017), the Integracie was founded. This was the internationalization committee of Van der Waals. The task of this committee was to give support to the association with the Anglicization of the bachelor. During the board year of Vortex (2018/2019) the GA’s were given in English for the first time and this has been done ever since. The twelfth Lustrum board Apollo (2019/2020) started of with a good year and activities/Borrels were organized all the time, until March. The corona virus started to influence the social activities in the whole world. For the first time in a very long time, no Borrels were organized and all activities got cancelled for the rest of the academic year. Including all travels, like the Study Tour Abroad to Singapore and Malaysia. All the members studied at home in quarantine and skype meetings were held regular. During this time, many online activities were organized by all kinds of different committees. On April 21, 2020, the first online GA was held. Luckily, everyone could start anticipating for the twelfth lustrum, with its theme: “ ‘Round The Clock”.