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Jan A. J. Stolwijk, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Lecturer in Epidemiology (Environmental Health)

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Jan A. J. Stolwijk, PhD

Appointments

Biography

Stolwijk was an associate fellow and then a fellow of the John B. Pierce Laboratory from 1957 to 1974 and associate director from 1974 to 1989. His research was in occupational health and indoor air pollution. He was the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and Public Health. He served as Chair of Public Health from 1982-1989.

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It is with sadness that we wish to share the news that Jan A.J. Stolwijk, PhD, passed away on February 17, 2021. He was a superb scientist and a seminal figure at the School of Public Health. Professor Stolwijk’s leadership and many contributions played key roles in the school’s development and growth. The messages below were prepared by his family and by his close colleagues, Michael B. Bracken, PhD, Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus, Brian P. Leaderer, PhD, MPH, Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus, and Lawrence E. Marks, PhD, Professor Emeritus.

Professor Jan A.J. Stolwijk

Jan A.J. Stolwijk, PhD, was born on a farm that grew seed wheat on a polder in the Netherlands on September 29, 1927, the eldest son of Leonard and Cornelia (Van der Bijl) Stolwijk. He attended the Amsterdam Montessori school, probably taught by Maria Montessori herself. A physiologist and biophysicist, he received his BS, MS, and PhD in plant science from Wageningen University in 1955. He came to the United States in 1955 and was naturalized in 1962. On leave of absence from the Laboratory of Plant Physiological Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands, he accepted a post-doctoral position as a Maria Moors Cabot Research Fellow at the Biological Laboratories at Harvard, under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth V. Thimann.

From Harvard, he was recruited to the John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven in 1957, where he studied human physiology, and rose to serve as Associate Director from 1974 to 1989. He moved next door to Yale, first as Director of Graduate Studies, and then as Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health from 1982-1989, and again as Acting Chair from 1994-1995. He retired as the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and Public Health. He was a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C.; Sigma Xi—the scientific research honor society, and others.

Dr. Stolwijk combined deep insight, technical skill and creativity, in a wide range of environmental health areas. He wrote the first digital computer program to model heat flow in the human body for the NASA space program in 1966, in what became known as “The Stolwijk Model.” He pioneered research on “sick building syndrome,” indoor air pollution, non-ionizing radiation, and other environmental health topics. He even engaged quantification challenges in the social sciences, namely the social policy arena of risk perception. He continued his international connections, engaging such noted public health scientists as Sir Richard Doll. He was fluent in Dutch, German, French and English. Dr. Stolwijk’s keen assessment of character, quietly ironic sense of humor, mentorship and uncanny ability to lead with inspiration and effectiveness in a crisis, will all be missed.

At home on the morning of February 17, 2021, surrounded by those who loved him, Dr. Stolwijk passed away peacefully at the age of 93 from congestive heart failure. Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Dr. Deborah Rose, BA ’72, MPH ’77, PhD ’89, daughter Sarah L.L. Rose, BA ’17, sister Agnes Stolwijk Korsuize, brother-in-law Hans Korsuize, and many nieces and nephews. A memorial service was held at Temple Isaiah in Fulton, Maryland with global virtual participation on February 23, and a private interment took place in New York on February 25.

The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1929, with headquarters in Amsterdam. The Washington Montessori Institute (WMI) is the oldest training center in the United States. Donations in Dr. Stolwijk’s memory can be made to the non-profit WMI by visiting the website at: www.wmi-montessori.org.

At YSPH, we are proud to host the Jan A.J. Stolwijk Fellowship for our students: https://publichealth.yale.edu/admissions_alumni/ape/stolwijk/.

Tributes to Jan Stolwijk Jan chaired the EPH Department (1982-89) during a period of expansion when the student body increased substantially, and many new faculty recruits were added. This was a time when Schools of Public Health across the country were growing rapidly. The increasing realization within EPH that the Department could not fulfill its mission without having increased independence within the University and moving EPH to a more independent School status led to an existential crisis in the Department's history. Jan managed this with grace and skill; EPH survived, eventually achieved School status, and has gone from strength to strength in subsequent years.

Jan was known to his friends and colleagues as the gentle giant—striding from his office in the Pierce Foundation to the SPH building, a tall man with a slight scholar’s stoop and with a friendly greeting to all. He was known for giving as good as he got on the (now lost) tennis court in front of EPH. Michael Bracken, MPH ’70, PhD ’74

Jan’s professional life has been well summarized, so let me add a personal note. I came to the Yale PhD program at Jan’s encouragement. He was my mentor throughout my PhD and well into my career. Jan was an internationally recognized leader in Indoor Air Quality. He introduced me to the world leaders in the field and made it a point of including me in meetings, policy discussions and assessing research needs. We spent many nights on the phone talking about research ideas as well as personal issues. He was always up for a good discussion.

Jan’s influence on and friendship to my family goes back a long way. He was instrumental in bringing my father-in-law not only to the Pierce Laboratory, but also to Guilford. While the academic community has lost a leader, I have lost a friend. Brian Leaderer, MPH ’71, PhD ’75

Much of Jan’s research in the 1960s focused on human responses to heat and cold and on implications for the regulation of body temperature. Combining his skills in biophysics with adeptness in computer programming, Jan used measurements of environmental events, thermal properties of the skin, blood flow, and metabolic processes, together with Newtonian models of heat flow, to develop and test an important quantitative model of the human body’s responses to thermal stresses, subsequently known as the “Stolwijk Model.” In the 1970s and 1980s, Jan, with his many students and colleagues at Yale, expanded his pioneering research into health effects of indoor air pollution, non-ionizing radiation, hazardous waste. He even investigated the perception of risk of indoor air pollutants and nuclear reactors. After serving as Director of Graduate Studies, Jan later served as Chair of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale from 1982-1989, as Acting Chair from 1993-1994, and, in retirement, he was the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology and Public Health. The Jan A.J. Stolwijk Fellowship, endowed to honor his life and work, has for more than two decades provided awards annually to MPH students in the School of Public Health to support summer projects or internships related to environmental health sciences. Lawrence E. Marks, PhD


Education & Training

  • PhD
    Wageningen University (1955)

Departments & Organizations