I was born in 1950 in De Lier in The Netherlands and studied plant breeding at the Agricultural University in Wageningen from 1968-1974. After obtaining my MSc I worked for two years as plant breeder of vegetables, whereafter In 1976 I started my PhD research at the Genetics department of Wageningen University. In those days research on this plant species was restricted to a few laboratories in the world. I continued my career at the same department and obtained a personal chair in plant genetics in 1992, continuing research on Arabidopsis and tomato. In the last twenty years the emphasis of my research was on the study of natural variation in Arabidopsis. In 2004 I was appointed as director at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, while I kept a one day per week position in Wageningen. I retired from both positions in respectively early 2016 and late 2015. I have been elected as member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the National Academies of the USA and Germany as well as the European Academy of Sciences. I am married with Elly Scheps and we have two children and 4 grandchildren.

Research Interests

I started my PhD research on the genetics of plant hormones and photoreceptors in Arabidopsis using induced mutants in collaboration with plant physiologists in Wageningen including Prof Cees Karssen, Dr Carl Spruit, and Prof Jan Zeevaart in the USA. After obtaining my PhD in 1982, I started a new research line on somatic cell genetics of tomato, while I kept working on some Arabidopsis projects. Together with Dr Richard Kendrick we also isolated and characterized photoreceptor mutants of tomato. From the early nineties additional funding for Arabidopsis allowed us to work on Arabidopsis, now also using molecular genetics. As a result we cloned several genes including one of the first genes, where epi-alleles due to the absence of DNA methylation caused a stable mutant phenotype. By the end of the nineties my research shifted to the use of natural variation in Arabidopsis where we identified the genes responsible for natural variation by quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis. Several of these loci were subsequently molecularly identified. This included a major regulator of seed dormancy named DOG1. At present I am active as scientific advisor in my former department at Wageningen University.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology