Leo Vroman, American Scientist, Dutch Poet

Leo Vroman, American Scientist, Dutch Poet

When after World War II Leo Vroman was on his way from Asia, where he had survived three years in Japanese POW-camps, to his home in the Netherlands and Tineke, the love of his life and wife-to-be, he traveled by way of New York City. There the young biologist landed a job as a research assistant at St. Peter’s General Hospital. He sent Tineke a telegram saying: ‘I have great news: I am not coming back’. Tineke later said that she was less than impressed by this ‘great news’. She got on the Queen Mary and sailed to New York, where the two, who had not seen each for more than seven years, got married two days after she landed.

Leo went on to become a successful research scientist. He discovered a process that takes place in the blood just before it clots, which is named after him: the Vroman effect. He published dozens of articles in medical and scientific journals and received several prizes and awards.

Although he took out US citizenship in 1951 and remained in the US, Leo became a literary icon in his native country, where he was known much more as a poet and artist than scientist. He published more than fifty collections of idiosyncratic poetry, a dozen or so works of prose, many of them illustrated with his own accomplished drawings. He won every prestigious literary award that the Dutch have to offer – all the while continuing his work as a scientist in the United States. He died in Fort Worth, in 2014.

For more on the fascinating lives of Tineke and Leo Vroman, read Issue 17 of DUTCH the magazine or Hiding in Plain Sight by Tom Bijvoet.

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Original article by: Tom Bijvoet