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Willem de Sitter
Born(1872-05-06)6 May 1872
Died20 November 1934(1934-11-20) (aged 62)
Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands
Alma materGroningen University
Known forde Sitter Universe
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorJacobus Kapteyn[1]
Doctoral studentsDirk Brouwer
Willem Hendrik van den Bos

Willem de Sitter (6 May 1872 – 20 November 1934) was a Dutch mathematician, physicist, and astronomer.

Life and work

Born in Sneek, de Sitter studied mathematics at the University of Groningen and then joined the Groningen astronomical laboratory. He worked at the Cape Observatory in South Africa (1897–1899). Then, in 1908, de Sitter was appointed to the chair of astronomy at Leiden University. He was director of the Leiden Observatory from 1919 until his death.

De Sitter made major contributions to the field of physical cosmology. He co-authored a paper with Albert Einstein in 1932 in which they discussed the implications of cosmological data for the curvature of the universe. He also came up with the concept of the de Sitter space and de Sitter universe, a solution for Einstein's general relativity in which there is no matter and a positive cosmological constant. This results in an exponentially expanding, empty universe. De Sitter was also well-known for his research on the motions of the moons of Jupiter, invited to give the George Darwin Lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society in 1931 [2].

Willem de Sitter died after a brief illness in November 1934.[3][4][5]


In 1912, he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6]


Named after him


One of his sons, Ulbo de Sitter (1902 – 1980), was a Dutch geologist, and one of Ulbo's sons was a Dutch sociologist Ulbo de Sitter (1930 – 2010).

Another son of Willem, Aernout de Sitter (1905 – 15 September 1944[7]), was the director of the Bosscha Observatory in Lembang, Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies), where he studied the Messier 4 globular cluster.

Selected publications

Einstein, Ehrenfest, Willem de Sitter, Eddington, and Lorentz in Leiden (1923)

See also


  1. ^ Willem de Sitter at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ de Sitter, Willem (1931). "Jupiter's Galilean satellites (George Darwin Lecture)". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 91: 706–738.
  3. ^ Obituary Notes of Astronomers at
  4. ^ 1947BAN....10..287D Page 287 at
  5. ^ Adriaan, Blaauw (2004). "My Cruise Through the World of Astronomy". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 42 (1): 1–37. Bibcode:2004ARA&A..42....1B. doi:10.1146/annurev.astro.42.053102.134020.
  6. ^ "Willem de Sitter (1872 - 1934)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  7. ^ Obituary Notes of Astronomers at