Henry P. Heineken
Learned and unassuming
Born on April 3, 1886, in Amsterdam, Henry Pierre Heineken was the second generation of brewers. He graduated from the University of Amsterdam in 1914 with a degree in biochemistry. In addition to product quality, his name is associated in particular with the progressive social policy he pursued, a policy that earned him his nickname, the “red brewer”. He died on May 3, 1971, in the town of his birth.
The first Heineken Prize was the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize. The award was introduced in 1964 by Henry Pierre’s son, Alfred Henry Heineken, in honour of his father’s 77th birthday. One of the aims of the prize was to promote science that was “closely related to the brewing process”. The Dr H.P. Heineken Prize is aimed specifically at research in the field of biochemistry and biophysics, “including microbiology and the physiology of seed germination”. This latter addition is a reference to hops and barley, important products for a beer brewer.
The American biochemist Erwin Chargaff of Colombia University in New York was the first to receive the prize, which he was awarded for his research on DNA structure. The creation of the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize was the company’s way of emphasising the importance of science to the brewing industry. Without science, it would be impossible to reach and remain at the top in an increasingly small world, a world with increasingly large markets and increasingly intensive international competition.
Alfred H. Heineken
Alfred Heineken was a multi-faceted man. The world knew him as a brewer and entrepreneur, but Alfred Heineken never stopped developing his interests in other fields. ‘I’ve always set out to become homo universalis: a brewer, a composer, an architect, an anthropologist, a photographer’, he explained.
Out of this unquenchable thirst for knowledge grew his profound admiration for scientists. This in turn gave birth to the prestigious Dr H.P. Heineken Prize and Dr A.H. Heineken Prizes, which are awarded every two years.
Alfred Heineken was born on 4 November 1923 in Amsterdam. From an early age it was clear that Alfred would be the third generation Heineken who would take over the management of the brewery. Thanks to his vision and intuition the company has evolved into a leading player in the world beer market.
But Alfred Heineken was much more than a respected businessman. He was a man of unbridled curiosity, for whom science and art were not so much an enrichment of life as a necessity of life. ‘Deep down, my father was an inventor, a man with an inquiring mind’, says his daughter, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken.
Alfred Heineken had great respect for science and its practitioners, and he was also fascinated by art. He felt, from a young age, that they were not given the recognition they deserved. So, he established a number of foundations with a view to eventually using them to fund prizes for scientists. With regular donations to the foundations from Alfred Heineken, and prudent investment management, enough capital had been accumulated by the late 1980s to fund biennial prizes for researchers working in the fields of biochemistry and biophysics, medicine, environmental sciences, history, and art. In accordance with Alfred Heineken’s wishes, the prizes are awarded by juries appointed by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).
Alfred Heineken died on 3 January 2002, but the Heineken Prizes live on as a celebration of scientific and artistic achievement. ‘I want the prizes to act as a stimulus to researchers, as well as a reward for past accomplishments.’
Charlene L. de Carvalho-Heineken
Making a difference
My father, Alfred Heineken, introduced the first Heineken Prize in 1964. He later went on to add several others, including one for contemporary art.
My father had a curious mind, and enormous respect for people who respond to problems by finding creative solutions. It is wonderful for me and my children to be able to carry on in his footsteps, and to continue to shine a bright light on innovation and creativity.
Engaging with science, and with societies at large, is something that we are deeply committed to. That is true for my family as well as for the companies that carry the family name.
We really can make a difference by investing in science and innovation. We must give clever minds some breathing space so that they can come up with bold ideas and creative approaches. We must encourage people to dig deep. People such as our laureates, whose work improves our understanding in ways that may only bear fruit decades later. Some of their creative ideas will fail, but others will be successful. If we work together on that, then a new edition of ‘Factfulness’, twenty years from now, will show that much more progress will have been made.
Louisa L.H. Brassey
Excite new generations
One of my earliest memories of my grandfather is of sitting around the kitchen table together. He was a great innovator, always drawing things for us that he wanted to invent.
He once had this idea of creating a toaster with see-through walls so you could tell when your toast was ready and make sure it wouldn’t burn. It was a great solution to a simple problem. Sadly he didn’t get anywhere with it — he was always a bit ahead of his time — but a few years ago see-through toasters actually hit the market and I now have one in my kitchen.
My grandfather definitely planted the seed of curiosity in all of us, in particular the seed of wanting to solve problems through creativity. He sought solutions to issues that he thought needed to be fixed. I think that that in a way is the essence of science — finding answers to questions and problems — and that innovative spirit is what ultimately drives the best people out there.
The Heineken Prizes to me are definitely worth building on in the future. Enthusiasm for science and art is the most important thing to pass on to future generations, and it will take the example of inspiring individuals to get our young people excited. The prizes might not always remain the same — being creative is the whole point and we must not be afraid of moving with the times — but I think we do have quite a unique thing going. I’m sure that by carrying on that legacy we would make previous generations very proud.
Alexander A.C. de Carvalho
No progress without Science
My grandfather was always meeting people, inviting people to dinner who were outstanding in their field, especially in summer. It could be an amazing jazz player, an amazing scientist, an amazing historian or an amazing magician.
I remember his enthusiasm for gaining knowledge and for learning from people like that. He was probably the first person I knew who wanted to discover more about everything. For me, the Heineken Prizes work a bit in the same way. Once I know who the winners are, I find out what they’ve done and it’s always fascinating. It introduces me to new topics in science and the winners are absolute experts in those fields. When someone has dedicated their whole life to understanding one specific protein or one specific era in time, they’re fascinating to listen to. I find the wealth and extent of their knowledge extremely compelling.