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Frederik Willem de Wette, Ph.D.

Obituary for Frederik Willem de Wette, Ph.D.

June 29, 1924 - June 11, 2018
Austin, Texas | Age 93

Frits will be remembered best as a loving and generous father and grandfather.


"Frits" de Wette passed away surrounded by family on June 11, 2018, in Austin, Texas. He was 93 years old.

Frits was born June 29, 1924, in Bussum, the Netherlands, to Willem H. de Wette and Kornelia Boogerd de Wette, who were both H.S. educators. Frits and his older sister Hetty, were raised in Huizen, an idyllic country fishing village, 30 miles east of Amsterdam.

Frits studied physics at the Rijks University in Utrecht just as WW II began. His studies were abruptly ended in the second year by a mass arrest of college students by the German army. Frits was interned in a concentration camp in Vucht and was released after six weeks. He spent the remainder of the war in hiding near his home in Huizen, as well as with relatives in Leiden, and Schouwen. There, Frits occupied his free time with enjoyable diversions such as playing the cello and bird-watching.

After WWII ended, Frits resumed his studies in Utrecht and graduated with a Bachelor degree in Mathematics, Physics, and Astronomy in 1947, a Masters in 1950, and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics in 1959.

Frits met Theodora "Doortje" de Gaay Fortman on the North Sea island of Schouwen-Duiveland, where both their families vacationed during the summer months. They married in 1952, after which they made the first of several voyages between the U.S. and Holland. Throughout his career, Frits supported Doortje's desire to maintain strong relationships with Dutch friends and relatives by spending every other summer in Holland.

Between 1955 and 1965, the de Wette family made five transatlantic moves, for jobs at Brown University, University of Maryland, back to Utrecht, University of Illinois, The Netherlands Nuclear Reactor Center, and Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. During this time, Frits and Doortje also added three children to the family; Julia, (1955) born in Maryland, Hetty (1957) and Nico (1959) born in his childhood home in Huizen.

Frits' career at University of Texas in Austin began in 1965 when he joined the Physics Department as a full professor, later serving as chairman from 1969-1974, and Associate Dean of the College of Natural Sciences from 1976-1980. He returned to the University of Utrecht for a sabbatical year in 1974, where the family lived in his childhood home in Huizen.

In 1983 Frits received the Alexander von Humboldt Award, which allowed him to spend a year at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany, doing collaborative research. As a result, academic ties between the Institute and the University of Texas flourished. In 1984, they returned to Austin and UT, and spent many summers traveling through Europe, often with family or friends. And they spent much of their time with their grandchildren.

Frits largely retired from academia in 1996, when his wife Doortje suffered a life-threatening illness, and thereafter, faithfully dedicated himself to her and her care until her death in 2015.

In 2012, Frits and Doortje moved into the retirement community of Longhorn Village where they enjoyed meeting new friends, daily walks on the grounds, listening to classical concerts, playing pool, and socializing with other residents at dinner.

In younger years, Frits spent many happy times sailing on Lake Travis, soaring, and flying single engine planes. Some of his proudest accomplishments were piloting several post docs to scientific meetings in the late 60's: twice to California, and once to Philadelphia.

Frits will be remembered best as a loving and generous father and grandfather. He regularly entertained family and friends with his wit and humor, and he loved telling a good joke. Colleagues who worked with Frits recalled his fairness, honesty, and decency. All who knew Frits will miss his warm and amiable personality.

Frits is survived by his children, Julia de Wette, M.D., and husband, Michael Murphy, (Dripping Springs, TX) and their children, Nicholas Murphy and Michaela (Kenny) McCown; Hetty de Wette-Kuhn and husband Bruce Kuhn (Burgh Haamstede, Netherlands) and their children Frits and Juliette Kuhn; Nico de Wette, M.D., and wife Jeanne (Portland, OR) and daughter Jessica Smith; and close family friends, Sandra and Bob Borinstein, and their daughter Hetty.

The de Wette family wishes to thank Visiting Angels Laura Ritchey, Wiesje Luminkewas, and Stacey Valdez for the gentle and loving care they each provided to Frits during the past two years at Longhorn Village.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for August 4th, 2018 at 4 PM at Longhorn Village, 12501 Longhorn Parkway, Austin, TX 78732. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice Austin or the Texas Nature Conservancy.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice Austin or the Texas Nature Conservancy.

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Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home Lake Travis

411 Ranch Rd. 620 S.
Lakeway, TX 78734
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