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Dannie N. Heineman, engineer, business executive and philanthropic sponsor of the sciences, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 23, 1872. His father, James Heineman, was born in Bangor, Maine, and his mother, Minna, in Ottesberg, Germany. He received his early education in the United States, but following the death of his father he went to Europe with his mother and in 1895 received a degree in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Hanover.
Upon his graduation, he was employed as an electrical engineer by the UnionElektrizitaets-Gesellschaft, of Berlin, which was a company associated with General Electric, and was staffed principally by Americans. Following two years of administrative work at the head office in Berlin, he was assigned to field work, and for the next four years he was engaged in engineering the electrification of street car systems and funiculars, and the building of power stations and distribution networks in Belgium, Germany and Italy. In 1901, his employer acquired an interest in the Union Electrique, a Belgian company, and in recognition of his administrative ability Mr. Heineman was placed in charge of the management of the latter company. Under such management Union Electrique built several power stations and distribution networks in Belgium, and undertook installations to provide electric power in a number of coal mines and steel mills. in 1905, when Mr. Heineman was giving consideration to returning to the United States, he was invited to become the managing director of a small investment trust called "Soci6t6 Financi6re de Transports et d Enterprises Industrielles (SOFINA)", which had been organized in 1898 by a group of Belgian investment bankers. The office staff consisted of the manager, an accountant and an office boy, and its activities were very limited.
Mr. Heineman accepted this assignment on condition that he would be free to leave in six months if he had been unable during that period to bring important new business to the Company. One measure of his success is the fact that he remained as head of Sofina for exactly 50 years, retiring in 1955 at the age of 83. During those 50 years Mr. Heineman was responsible for the development of Sofina into one of the most important public utility engineering management and holding companies in the world. Anticipating the wider uses for electric power, he directed the Company with a view toward less emphasis on surface transportation and greater emphasis on the generation and distribution of electric energy. It was under his plan of organization and activities that Sofina's engineers acted as consultants in Central and South America, Western Europe and the Middle East, in the building of thermal and hydroelectric stations, substations and distribution networks, and also in the enlarging of existing plants. In addition, aware that competent engineering alone would not insure successful operation, Sofina undertook advising on proper management and arranged for and participated in the necessary financing. As one result of the cumulative experience in these various fields and the recognition of the inter-relationship between science, economics and industry, Sofina, under Mr. Heineman's sponsorship early established its own research center in the areas of economic analysis, scientific research, and engineering in the power industry. Sofina thus became one of the first European industrial companies to have its own scholarly and research establishment.
For his foresight in recognizing the necessity for the development of electric energy and his ability to organize facilities for furnishing such power, in 1926 the University of Cologne conferred upon Mr. Heineman an honorary doctorate of philosophy.
Beyond his interest in the power industry, Mr. Heineman was also directly concerned with the economy and welfare of Belgium, the country of his residence for a long time. During the First World War he was among those primarily responsible for the organization of the Comite National de Secours et d'Alimentation and the Commission for Relief in Belgium. In recognition of the services rendered by him to the Belgian economy, the Belgian Government awarded him the Grand Croix de l'Ordre de Leopold II, and he was also made a Grand Officer de l'Ordre de Leopold.
He spoke on a number of occasions as a proponent of the Pan-American movement, and in 1930 published one of his speeches entitled "Outline of a New Europe." Many of his ideas, then considered visionary, find expression today in the European Common Market, which gives promise of a united Europe. Beyond his active participation in business and economic affairs, Mr. Heineman early became interested in the field of letters and art, and in 1898 began a collection of rare books and manuscripts to which he added substantially over the years.
Since his own experience had demonstrated the responsibility of man for man and the importance of research and education in fulfilling that responsibility, more than sixty years ago Mr. Heineman began to devote a great deal of time and funds to philanthropic, research and educational projects. To perpetuate this work, he and Mrs. Heineman established the Heineman Foundation for Research, Educational, Charitable and Scientific Purposes, Inc.
In addition to the substantial gifts which the Foundation had made to fulfill the purposes for which it was established, in 1947 Mr. Heineman transferred to the Foundation his library of rare books and manuscripts. These were deeded in 1977 to the Pierpont Morgan Library. They serve as useful source material for research and have been made available for public display.
Beyond philanthropic gifts made annually, the Foundation, whose directors included the three children of the founders, sponsors research and development in the sciences and in medicine.
It was to encourage further research in the field of mathematical physics that the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics was established. Since 1959, this Prize has been administered jointly by The American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics.
To recognize achievement in the field of astrophysics, another prize was established in 1979 by the Foundation. This prize, the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, is administered jointly by the American Astronomical Society and the American Institute of Physics.