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On 7 May 2019, Fernando Lopes da Silva passed away at the age of 84. Fernando Lopes da Silva was a professor at the UvA from 1980 to 2000, first at the Faculty of Biology and later at the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences. After his retirement, he continued to be closely involved in neuroscientific research and teaching at the Faculty of Science at the University of Amsterdam. Fernando was recognised and celebrated both in the Netherlands and abroad for his insight, teaching methods, wisdom and humanity.

Fernando Lopes da Silva
Fernando Lopes da Silva

Fernando studied medicine at the University of Lisbon, initially specialising in psychiatry. As he soon realised that genuine neuroscientific progress required a better understanding of the underlying basic processes, he specialised further by studying neurophysiology in London. The political situation in Portugal forced him to seek refuge abroad until the Carnation Revolution was over. He joined the TNO Institute for Medical Physics in Utrecht, where he obtained his doctorate under the supervision of Professor Storm van Leeuwen and Professor van der Tweel. For seven years he led its Brain Research group.

Fernando was appointed professor of General Animal Physiology at the University of Amsterdam in 1980, a position he held until his retirement in 2000. Fernando was a gifted lecturer and played a key role in teaching Biomedical Sciences and shaping the Bachelor of Psychobiology at the UvA. During his career, he proved an inspiring supervisor for over 65 doctoral candidates. He was also one of the founders of the Graduate School Neurosciences Amsterdam and stood at the basis of UvA’s research priority area Amsterdam Brain and Cognition.

In addition to his position at the UvA, Fernando worked as a part-time professor at the University of Twente and as scientific director of the Centre of Excellence for Epilepsy (SEIN). Fernando was a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). After his retirement, he spent many years as a professor by special appointment in Lisbon and Porto and played a crucial role in the development of neuroscientific research and education in Portugal. His great social involvement is evidenced by the large number of ancillary positions that he held outside the UvA.

Fernando was an exceptionally broadly oriented scientist with a strong interest in the relationship between the brain and mental processes, in particular the plasticity which allows neural networks to learn and adapt to changing circumstances. He carried out groundbreaking work on the mechanisms underlying electrical brain rhythms and neural networks that link memory, sensory information, motivation and behaviour. Research into the causes of ,and new diagnostic techniques for, epilepsy has been a spearhead throughout his career. His productivity was reflected in over 400 publications. One of his standard works is Handbook Electroencephalography, the leading reference book that he edited together with Niedermeyer. His honorary doctorates in Lisbon, Porto, Helsinki and Rennes testify to  the great international appreciation of his work. Fernando was appointed Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion and Officer in the Order of Santiago da Espada.

Fernando will live on in our memory not only because of his profound thinking, but also because of his warm personality and the inspiration with which he surrounded employees and students alike. We will always remember his social commitment and self-evident moral attitude with which he provided selfless, wise counsel to everyone. Our sympathy goes out to his wife Carlota, children and grandchildren.

Fernando will be missed.