Leo Vroman; undercover blood researcher


bron: Leo Vroman, Bloed. Em. Querido’s Uitgeverij / Wetenschappelijke Uitgeverij, Amsterdam 1968

Last saturday, it was in the news that Leo Vroman had passed away at the respectable age of 98. In the Netherlands, he is/was quite famous for his poetry, for which he received prestigious awards, including the P.C. Hooft award.

In early 2008, our department’s previous Professor, Prof.dr. Jan Sixma informed me that my most recent experiments seemed to offer an explanation for the puzzling observations that Leo Vroman had made decades earlier. I did not even know that he ever did experiments!? – Leo Vroman was a poet: my grandfather was a fan of his work. In retrospect, it was obvious. He wrote the books with the titles: “Blood” and “Warm, red, wet and lovely”; sounds like a blood researcher to me! Furthermore, the Vroman effect (blood proteins sticking to non-natural surfaces in a sequential order) was named after him. I just never really made the connection.


SonnenborghAround the same time, I visited a cultural festival,  at observatory the Sonnenborgh in Utrecht, one of Vroman’s favorite places. I read in the program that Leo Vroman would be interviewed  via direct satellite connection – interesting. They wanted to hear about his poetry, but he made it quite clear: “First and foremost, I am a blood researcher. Poetry comes second.”. He also said: “I google myself regularly to see if anyone has picked up on my research work.” By that time, Prof.Sixma had provided me with his address and told me that I should let Leo know what was going on. I didn’t.

Later on, while I was working as a postdoc in Sweden (2010), I decided to write him a letter – something you do not very often. I explained what I had found. A few weeks later, I received one back! Very cool; it even had a kind of 8-bit drawing of a rose in the upper right corner (later, I came to understand that digital drawing through programming was his new hobby). I really should dig that letter up again for better safekeeping.

FB1Later on, Leo became an active Facebook member. On a few instances, we had discussions on the extrapolation of his previous work to more recent times. Very funny! He was not mild in his comments.


In 2012, a committee of the Dutch Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis Research went to the USA (where he lived) to award Leo with the van Creveld Medal. A real honor! It is like the P.C. Hooft award for blood researchers. I hope he loved every minute of it!

FB2They even asked me to come along (I helped to arrange the meeting between my new Facebook friend and the committee a bit), but I was not able to join (I don’t even remember why: some grant proposal deadline or something like that). Too bad, would have been great to meet in person.

Well, anyway, I think we’re getting pretty close (matter of months) to solving what the physiological function of FXII and associates is. It does not appear to have much to do with protein adsorption, though. Sorry Leo! But it would have been great to convince you of this … although I expect that it would not have been easy to do so.

Warme groet,

One Response to "Leo Vroman; undercover blood researcher"

  1. I loved your forum post.Thanks Again. Cool. Tino

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