Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium (English translation: Philips
Physics Laboratory) or NatLab was the Dutch section of the Philips
research department, which did research for the product divisions of
that company. Originally located in the
Strijp district of Eindhoven,
the facility moved to
Waalre in the early 1960s. A 1972 municipal
rezoning brought the facility back into Eindhoven, which was followed
some years later by
Eindhoven renaming the street the facility is on
into the Prof. Holstlaan, after the first director.
In 1975, the NatLab employed some 2000 people, including 600
researchers with university degrees.
Research done at the NatLab has
ranged from product-specific to fundamental research into electronics,
physics and chemistry, as well as computing science and information
The original NatLab facility was disbanded in 2001 and the facility
has been transformed into the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, which is
open to researchers from many different companies.
still one of the largest campus tenants, although not with anything
like the number of people employed in the NatLab days. Philips
Research also has branches in Germany, the United Kingdom, United
States, India and China; the non-
Netherlands parts of
account for about half the research work done by
1.1 The start: 1914-1946
1.2 Growth and success: 1946-1972
1.3 The end: 1972-present
2 Notable alumni
5 External links
The history of the NatLab spans roughly three periods: 1914-1946,
1946–1972 and 1972-2001.
The start: 1914-1946
The NatLab was founded in 1914 after a direct decision of Gerard and
Anton Philips. At the time
Philips was branching out into different
areas of electronics and they felt the need to do in-house research to
support product development, as well as create a company patent
portfolio and reduce the company dependence on patents held by third
parties. They hired physicist
Gilles Holst (the first director) who
assembled a staff consisting of Ekko Oosterhuis and a small number of
research assistants; this was the entire scientific staff of the
facility for the first decade. Holst held the director's position
until 1946 and spent his tenure creating and maintaining an academic
atmosphere at the facility in which researchers were given a lot of
leeway and access to external research and resources. The external
access also included colloquia by some of the great physicists of the
Albert Einstein in 1923).
This managerial philosophy made the NatLab very different from all the
Philips facilities and laboratories. Unlike the other Philips
labs, NatLab was more like the AT&T Bell Laboratories in the
United States. The research was also not limited to industrial
research; a good deal of fundamental research was also performed at
NatLab, such as that of
Bernard D. H. Tellegen and Balthasar van der
Pol. Van der Pol was hired in 1922 to start a research program into
radio technology. This research program resulted in publishable
results in the areas of propagation of radio waves, electrical circuit
theory, harmonics and a number of related, mathematical problems. Van
der Pol also studied the effect of the curvature of the Earth on radio
Van der Pol's senior assistant (hired in 1923) was Bernard Tellegen.
He started working on triodes and invented (with his director Gilles
Holst) the penthode in 1926. The penthode was the centerpiece of
Philips radio and it soon found its way into every radio
and amplifier in the market. Tellegen also did pioneering research in
the area of electrical networks. In 1925 Van der Pol took on a junior
student from Delft, Johan Numans. Numans designed and built a short
wave crystal controlled telephony transmitter for his required period
of practical work, with call sign PCJJ. This transmitter made world
headlines on March 11, 1927 when it transmitted practically
undistorted music and voice across the entire globe. As a result of
Philips Omroep Holland-Indië (PHOHI, the Philips
Holland-Indonesia station) was founded.
Growth and success: 1946-1972
In 1946 Holst was succeeded by a triumvirate: physicist Hendrik
Casimir (who would later become the primarily responsible of the three
and member of the Board of Directors), chemist Evert Verwey and
engineer Herre Rinia. The NatLab saw its heyday under this
Philips company as a whole, the era of Frits
Philips had made
the company part of the world's electronics giants with 350.000
employees in 1970. NatLab grew right along with the company and became
a world class research facility. By 1963 a new campus was designed for
the facility in Waalre, with space for 3.000 employees (more than any
Dutch university). NatLab never grew to quite those numbers though,
2.400 was the record – and that included the foreign branches which
had been added in the meantime. The NatLab became a superuniversity
where the "best of the best" could do research in practically perfect
circumstances (full academic freedom, no time devoted to teaching
classes, nearly unlimited budgets and so on). Kees Schouhamer Immink,
digital pioneer and one of NatLab's top-scientists, formulated the
atmosphere at that time: "We were able to conduct whatever research we
found relevant, and had no pre-determined tasks; instead, we received
full freedom and support of autonomous research. We went to work, not
knowing what we would do that day. This view -or rather ambiguous
view- on how research should be conducted, led to amazing inventions
as a result. It was an innovation heaven".
The result was a slew of commercial and fundamental results, including
the cassette tape in 1962, Plumbicon camera tube and the Video Long
Play disc, which was the technological basis for the 1980 compact
disc. Results were also achieved in the area of integrated circuitry:
Else Kooi invented the
LOCOS technology and Kees Hart and Arie Slob
developed the I²L (Integrated Injection Logic) in the early 1970s.
Dick Raaijmakers (using the alias Kid Baltan) and
Tom Dissevelt did
fundamental user experience research into the first synthesizers,
resulting in internationally acclaimed electronic music and jazz
The end: 1972-present
The period under Casimir was a time of great success and achievement
for the NatLab. But the time after his retirement in 1972 was one of
decline and loss.
In 1973, starting with the oil crisis, the long period of economic
growth came to an end and companies could no longer afford expensive
research departments. With that economic reality, the belief in the
stimulating value of fundamental research also seemed to disappear. On
top of that, a number of bad decisions by the NatLab management did
little to ingratiate the facility to the
Philips Board of Directors
(such bad decisions including the development of the flopped
Video 2000 videocassette recorder, and the initial lack
of support for the compact disc.
The compact disc had been initiated and pushed by the audio
department, although NatLab researcher Kees Schouhamer Immink
played an instrumental role in its design. For the industry group
'Audio' and the NatLab the development of a small optical audio disc
started early in 1974. The sound quality of this disc had to be
superior to that of the large and vulnerable vinyl record. To realize
this, Lou Ottens, technical director of 'Audio', formed a seven-person
project group. Vries and Diepeveen were members of this project group.
In March 1974, during an Audio-VLP meeting Peek and Vries recommended
a digital audio registration because an error-correcting code could be
included. Vries and Diepeveen built an error-correcting coder-decoder
that was delivered in the summer of 1978. The decoder was included in
the CD prototype player that was presented to the international press.
To commemorate this breakthrough,
Philips received an IEEE Milestone
Award on March 6, 2009. This breakthrough was also appreciated by
Sony and they started a cooperation with
Philips that resulted in June
1980 in a common CD system standard.
Philips as a whole took a turn for the worse and by the end of the
1980s bankruptcy seemed a very real possibility. Under research
director Kees Bulthuis the position of long-term fundamental research
at NatLab came under more and more pressure, especially after Philips
introduced decentralized financing. Bulthuis reduced research budgets
by the equivalent of 60 million euro in three years' time. Hundreds of
NatLab employees were fired and departments were closed, including the
entire mathematics department in Brussels. By 1989 the NatLab, which
had formerly been on the Board of Directors budget, drew two-thirds of
its income from contracts with the product divisions. This made the
role of the NatLab far more limited than before: it became a source of
expertise rather than a source of innovation. In 1998, when Arie
Huijser became general research director, top researchers Joseph
Braat, Rudy van de Plassche, and
Kees Schouhamer Immink
Kees Schouhamer Immink resigned,
further accelerating NatLabs's decline. Kees Schouhamer Immink, in a
newspaper interview, told that the research management was a chaos
which spoiled the atmosphere. As a result academic freedom was far
gone. Fundamental research, research driven purely by curiosity,
was strictly reined in and priority was given to the short-term
interests of the product divisions.
Philips decided on a new direction for the NatLab and the
grounds it was housed on: the decision was made to transform and sell
the whole of it into an open innovation facility for technology
companies, of which
Research was only a small one. The name
chosen for this new facility is the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, which
has by now completely subsumed the old NatLab. This decision by
Philips also fit with the new direction chosen by the company, "Health
Philips has divested itself of branches like the Lighting and
semiconductors branches (now the independent NXP), which has reduced
the on-site size of
Research to 200 as of 2016.
was a Dutch physicist best known for his research on the two-fluid
model of superconductors (together with C. J. Gorter) in 1934 and
Casimir effect (together with D. Polder) in 1948. Was the head of
NatLab from 1946 until 1972.
Balthasar van der Pol
His main interests were in radio wave propagation, theory of
electrical circuits, and mathematical physics. The Van der Pol
oscillator, one of the most widely used models of nonlinear
self-oscillation, is named after him. He was awarded the Institute of
Radio Engineers (now the IEEE) Medal of Honor in 1935.
Kees Schouhamer Immink
pioneered and advanced the era of digital audio, video, and data
recording, including popular digital media such as Compact Disc, DVD
and Blu-ray Disc. He has been a prolific and influential engineer, who
holds more than 1100 US and international patents. He was awarded both
the 2017 IEEE Medal of Honor "for pioneering contributions to
video, audio, and data recording technology, including compact disc,
DVD, and Blu-ray", and the 1999 IEEE Edison Medal, and a personal Emmy
award in 2004.
was a Dutch electrical engineer and inventor of the pentode and the
gyrator. He is also known for a theorem in circuit theory, Tellegen's
theorem. He won the
IEEE Edison Medal
IEEE Edison Medal in 1973 "For a creative career
of significant achievement in electrical circuit theory, including the
was a Dutch composer, theater maker and theorist. He was known as a
pioneer in the field of electronic music and tape music.
Andries Rinse Miedema
was a Dutch scientist, who developed a model for alloying effects in
metals which is known as Miedema's_Model .
^ Google Maps, location of the facility
^ G. Holst and B.D.H. Tellegen, "Means for amplifying electrical
Patent 1,945,040, January 1934.
^ Marieke Verbiesen. "NatLab's History-Back to the Future". Baltan
Laboratories. Archived from the original on April 30, 2017. Retrieved
^ K. Schouhamer Immink (2007). "Shannon, Beethoven, and the Compact
Disc". IEEE Information Theory Society Newsletter. 57: 42–46.
^ "IEEE CD Milestone". IEEE Global History Network.
^ Martijn Hover. "Managers verziekten sfeer op NatLab (in Dutch)".
Eindhovens Dagblad, 2 Nov. 2003. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
^ Amy Bennett (2006). "
Philips axes 300 jobs in research division".
ITWorld. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
^ R. de Bruyn Ouboter, C.J. Gorter's Life & Science, University of
Leiden, Instituut-Lorentz for Theoretical
^ Tekla Perry (2017). "Kees Immink: The Man Who put the Compact Disc
on Track". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved 2017-06-21.
Inventing Structures for Industrial Research, thesis by F. Kees
Boersma on the founding and history of the NatLab up to 1946.
Philips Nat.Lab. vastgelegd site for the book 80 years of
research at the
Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium 1914-1994 by Marc J.
de Vries and F. Kees Boersma, commissioned by
supervised by the Stichting Historie der Techniek.
De veranderende rol van het Natuurkundig Laboratorium in het
Philips-concern gedurende de periode 1914-1994, K. Boersma and M. de
Opkomst en neergang van een legendarisch lab, Delta (universiteitsblad
TU Delft), S. Priester, February 2006.
Wetenschap in uitvoering, Het NatLab in
Eindhoven TELEAC Film (25
min.), April 2009
Hans B. Peek, "The emergence of the Compact Disc", IEEE Communications
Magazine, January 2010, pp. 10–17.
Hans Peek, Jan Bergmans, Jos van Haaren, Frank Toolenaar and Sorin
Stan," Origins and Successors of the Compact Disc", Springer, 2009,
Research Book Series, Vol. 11, Chapters 2 and 3.
IEEE CD Milestone, IEEEE Global History Network.
Philips Consumer Lifestyle
Shenzhen Goldway Industrial
Lumileds Lighting Company
Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium
Philips Classics Records
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Joint ventures and
NXP Semiconductors (19.9%)
Philips-Neusoft Medical Systems (51%)
TCL Corporation (6.3%)
TCL Multimedia (52.10%)
Broadcast Television Systems Inc.
Philips Unified Systems
Philips Consumer Communications
Philips Cinema 21:9 TV
Philips Intimate Massagers
Video Content Protection System
President and Chief Executive Officer
Frans van Houten
Philips and Gerard Philips
High Tech Campus Eindhoven
Philips Sports Manager of the Year
Coordinates: 51°24′38″N 5°27′25″E / 51.41056°N