Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Professor Gaston Maggetto (1939-2007)

Founder and inspirator of the department ETEC

maggettoGaston Maggetto was born on March 16, 1939 in Bierghes, Belgium. He studied at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, graduating in 1962 as Civil Mechanical-Electrotechnial Engineer. Gaston Maggetto started his career as research assistant at the ULB and defended his doctorate in 1973. In this period, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was building its curriculum and a lecturer was needed for Electrical Engineering. Gaston Maggetto accepted the mission. It was a great challenge however, as the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was Dutch-speaking. Gaston Maggetto learned the language quickly and managed to introduce his students in a passionate way to the world of electrotechnics. The switch to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel did not mean however he deserted the ULB: during his whole academic career, he kept several teaching assignments at the ULB.

A scientific curriculum needs of course a research base. This was found in power electronics. Gaston Maggetto wrote a key work about thyristors and looked for innovative applications. We are the early seventies, the first oil crisis, the growing interest for the environment,... Gaston Maggetto saw the potential role of electricity in transport and took the visionary decision to take onelectric vehicle research. This was clearly on target. A reputable research team grew: the department ETEC, which quickly gained national and international recognition. Research was performed on batteries and charging systems, and in 1984 an electric vehicle of the department ETEC drove from Brussels to the EVS-symposium in Paris. A direct run of twenty hours, including intermediate charges.

This experiment brought international recognition for the department and formed the basis for intensive international cooperation. Professor Maggetto was at the origin of international associations such as AVERE (European association for battery-electric, hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles), CITELEC (Association of cities interested in electric vehicles) en EPE (European association for power electronics). The first EPE-conference took place in 1987 in Brussels, and on occasion of the COST302-conference in 1987, Gaston Maggetto organised the "12 Electric Hours", which brought him on the front page of the major Belgian newspaper "De Standaard", with as caption "Don Quichot"! Several "12 Hours" followed, in cities such as Bruges, Namur, La Rochelle, Padova, Oxford, Grenoble, 's-Hertogenbosch and Rotterdam, as well as tours of Flanders and Brussels with electric vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers tested prototypes in collaboration with the ETEC team.

In 1998, thanks to the expertise of the department ETEC, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was able to host the fifteenth edition of the prestigious Electric Vehicle Symposium. With an exhibition in two Heysel palaces and over 1500 participants, this became the biggest conference on electric vehicles ever. Following the symposium, another big event followed: the Transeuropean, where a convoy of twenty electric vehicles drove from Brussels to Monaco, and in 2000 from Monaco to the World Exhibition in Hannover. Professor Maggetto did not only organize these events, but actively participated by car or by bicycle.

All these actions were of course just a dissemination of the scientific expertise of Gaston Maggetto and his team in the field of electrical engineering, power electronics, electrically propelled vehicles, numerical electrochemical techniques and lighting technology. This scientific knowledge was reflected in various scientific publications and dozens and European research projects. Also the Belgian federal government, de Flemish Region and the Brussels Capital Region frequently appealed to Professor Maggetto for policy-supporting research on mobility.

Besides being a visionary researcher and passionate lecturer, Gaston Maggetto also took up many administration functions. From 1975 to 1978 he was Dean of the Faculty of Engineering Sciences and supervised the move of the faculty and the department to the new facilities at Etterbeek campus. From 1986 to 1995 he presided the Royal Belgian Society of Electricians. He was member of several commissions dealing with mobility problems and was a founding member the Association of Engineers of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Colleagues who worked with Gaston Maggetto remember him as a leader and inspirator. With passion and enthusiasm he knew how to motivate his students and researchers. Both at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université Libre de Bruxelles Professor Maggetto was known as a charismatic man with a large network of national and foreign contacts.

Gaston Maggetto passed away after a long and courageously fought illness on February 9, 2007.

The department ETEC will continuously honour the remembrance of Professor Gaston Maggetto, who will continue to give the department force and inspiration to continue the way he has shown.

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