The trophy consists of a pressed crystal on which is mounted a replica of the first lens made by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), who invented the microscope and became the first ever microbiologist. Inside the crystal is a model of a DNA-molecule as a symbol of biochemistry, light beams on a hop plant as a symbol of microbiology and an ear of barley symbolising the physiology of seed germination. The object was designed by W. Heesen and produced by Royal Leerdam Crystal.
The Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics has been awarded every two years since 1964 and is the most valuable Dutch prize for scientific research. Many leading scientists, including a number of future Nobel laureates (Christian de Duve, Sir Aaron Klug, Thomas R. Cech, Sir Paul M. Nurse, James E. Rothman, Roger Y. Tsien, Andrew Z. Fire and Jack W. Szostak) have been awarded the prize by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of their pioneering work.
The prize consists of 200,000 US Dollars and a crystal trophy; it is funded by the Alfred Heineken Fondsen Foundation.
Chemist Henry Pierre Heineken (1886-1971) managed the Heineken brewery for nearly 40 years. He was renowned for his patriarchal management style and acquired the sobriquet of the ‘red brewer’ because he set up a pension fund and did his best to minimise job losses during the depression of the 1930s.
Henry Pierre Heineken left the day-to-day management of the brewery to a board of management, the members of which he had carefully selected, enabling him to devote more time to his cultural interests, especially music. He was an accomplished pianist and served as chairman of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra. A cosmopolitan figure, he spoke and wrote English, German and French fluently.
Alfred Heineken inherited his father’s feeling for languages, his cosmopolitan attitudes and his cultural interests. Thus it was very much an act of homage to his father when, in the early 1960s, Alfred established the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics. Since then, the Dr H.P. Heineken Prize for Biochemistry and Biophysics has been awarded to many eminent researchers.