In Memoriam – Loet Leydesdorff

by Koen Frenken

Many of us remember Loet as a great scholar in science and technology studies, having made so many important contributions to scientometrics, communication theory, and innovation studies. Loet collaborated with many all over the world, and I found it consolatory to read so many posts online by colleagues remembering Loet for his kindness, generosity and friendship.
Fewer people will have experienced Loet as a university teacher, and I have been among the lucky ones who have been his student. As a student frustrated with studying economics, I looked for inspiration outside my department attending philosophy courses. It was during a course on Philosophy of Science where I first met Loet, who introduced students in the sociology of scientific knowledge during the very last guest lecture. I knew right away that I wanted to learn more and registered for his elective class on the non-linear dynamics of science and technology (the exact title was longer and more precise). Discussing classics and recent empirical papers from a variety of traditions, Loet was able to provide us with a rich understanding of the history of thought in science and technology studies. He did not shy away from including classic texts that were only available in an original language (French and German), but did not care much that most students could not read such languages. I vividly remember his passionate engagement with students, always encouraging them to articulate they own thoughts and providing what we now may call a ‘safe space’ for students to participate.
During the writing of my Master thesis in economics at the end of 1995, Loet contacted me to apply as a PhD student at his department. As funds were limited, he helped me to apply for a European grant allowing me to spend two years in Grenoble with his collaborator Paolo Saviotti. Throughout the whole PhD trajectory, he has been very supportive even if my approach would gradually move away from his theoretical interests. From my side, I commented tirelessly on his draft papers which he would always send to me for comments, but I stopped doing that after a few years as his output continued to increase exponentially.
I was also impressed by all his entrepreneurial academic activities that I watched from close by. One highlight was the setting up of a new interdisciplinary Bachelor at the University of Amsterdam crossing the boundaries between natural and social sciences involving members from various faculties. Another achievement was the creation of a global network of researchers and professionals together with Henry Etzkowitz on the topic of university-industry-government relations. Loet was also successful in bringing together European colleagues in his beloved city of Amsterdam (canal trip and Indonesian food included) to set up new joint proposals for European grants. Indeed, working with Loet was experiencing ‘Science in Action’ first-hand, generously sharing his ideas, skills and tacit knowledge.
As I embarked on my career after having graduated in 2001 at the University of Amsterdam, I started working at other universities in The Netherlands. Gradually, our professional contacts became less frequent. At the same time, our friendship grew bigger and our conversations more personal. I will cherish all the conversations we had at his kitchen table or on my balcony. I will always remember him for his drive and humanity.