In Memoriam Prof. Dr. M.L. (Martin) Kersten (1953-2022), CEO of MonetDB Solutions

Prof. Dr. M.L. (Martin) Kersten, fellow of the national research institute Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, emeritus professor of computer science at the University of Amsterdam and CEO of MonetDB Solutions, passed away on 6 July 2022. His more than 40-year career is characterized by pioneering fundamental research and further developing his research results into software systems whose architecture is now widely applied. We will continue to remember Martin as a passionate researcher and leader, full of visionary ideas and endless energy, who dared to row against the stream. For him, building a strong team was a priority, he gave young employees the space to develop and the protection they sometimes needed.

Career in a nutshell

Martin Kersten, born on October 25 1953, in Amsterdam, went on to study mathematics at the Free University (VU) after HBS-B, where he obtained his master’s degree in mathematics in 1979, expanded with computer science and with a minor in administrative informatics. He continued his career by obtaining his doctorate on June 6, 1985, at the VU and subsequently joined the national research institute Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam. At CWI he started a Database research group where he conducted research and led the research group. He was appointed professor of Information Systems in Multimedia Databases in January 1994. He had an organizational role in major national research projects such as MultimediaN, Bricks and COMMIT. Moreover, in 2020 he received a royal decoration for his exceptional achievements and was made a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Pioneering Science, Vision and Leadership

At CWI, Martin Kersten explored new topics and areas in data-intensive computer science, leading a large group of researchers from 1985 to 2011. In addition, as one of the prominent senior researchers, he established a management team at CWI in 1996 that largely contributed to CWI’s computer science research policy. He has always shown a long-term vision of fundamental research in the field. He has translated decades of constant and consistent research into open source products and systems that have a significant impact and are used everywhere in business and public organizations. His best-known brainchild is the open-source system MonetDB, that brought him to be one of the founders of MonetDB Solutions in 2013. As a visionary CEO, he led the company further to develop the MonetDB open-source system throughout the years, shifting the paradigm of an OLAP system into an HTAP system with commercial support. The next step in his vision was to lead the development of MonetDB with a cloud offering in order to bring the creativeness of MonetDB to a more extensive spectrum of users. Friend and foe agree that he is one of the most creative and influential scientists in data-intensive computer science worldwide.

Administrative work conferences, magazines and professional organisations

Over the past 15 years, Martin Kersten has served on more than 50 program committees of conferences such as VLDB, EDBT, International Conference on Data Engineering (ICDE), SIGMOD, Scientific and Statistical Database Management Conference (SSDBM), International World Wide Web Conference (WWW). In addition, he has served on editorial boards of international journals, including ACM Transactions on Database Systems and the VLDB Journal. He has also served on the boards of the VLDB Endowment and the EDBT Association.