Former Governor Dorte Olesen turns 75


Consultant, Professor Dorte Olesen, Gentofte, turns 75 on 8 January.

Dorte Olesen obtained her master’s degree in mathematics and physics in 1973 and quickly entered a scientific career in the border area between these two subjects. She got her PhD degree from the University of Southern Denmark in 1975 and in 1981 she became a DSc from the University of Copenhagen (KU), shortly after her appointment as Associate Professor at the Department of Mathematics.

Foto: Rochelle Coote

Her research career also led her to the USA as a Member of the Mathematical Sciences Research Centre at Berkeley for the academic year 1984-85, and she was quickly entering  leadership positions at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and became the first (and until 2019 also the only) female dean of natural sciences in 1986. In 1988, she became Denmark’s first female full Professor of mathematics. She was also a member of the Danish Government’s Research Policy Council from 1987-93, where she, among other things, spearheaded an evaluation of Danish health science.

In 1989, she became director of the newly formed UNI-C, Denmark’s IT-Center for Research and Education, which was a merger of the computer centers at the Technical University and the big universities in Copenhagen and Aarhus. UNI-C was responsible for a number of IT services for schools and universities, including the Danish research network DENET, which was Denmark’s major link to the Internet. Since several university teachers wanted an Internet connection to their homes, in 1991 UNI-C established the first general Internet service for ordinary PC users, the so-called inet service. This provided a significant breakthrough for the use of the internet in Denmark, and this commercial ISP part of UNI-C’s business grew rapidly in the following years. In connection with the liberalization of telecommunications, it was sold to Tele2 in 1997, and UNI-C then focused sharply on establishing a range of easily accessible services for schools, e.g. SkoleIntra and Unilogin and the education portal EMU – originally the abbreviation stood for “Electronic Marketplace for Teaching Materials”, but the time was not yet ripe for e-commerce, and EMU changed character to a learning platform. Dorte Olesen then, as chairman of a committee under the Danish Association of IT-companies, ITB, helped to establish the Danish E-commerce Award, which for a number of years was awarded in close cooperation between UNI-C, ITB and the newspaper Børsen. When e-commerce had become more widespread, the annual award processing was handed over to the Association for Danish Internet Trade.

In 2011, Dorte Olesen returned to mathematics at DTU’s large institute for mathematics and computer science, DTU Compute. Together with a colleague from the University of Copenhagen, she updated and republished a textbook on the research field C*-algebra in 2018. She is still employed at DTU Compute as a consultant in a large research project, and in recent years she has also spent much of her time disseminating natural science and technology to wider circles, not least in connection with the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Ørsted’s discovery of electromagnetism, HCØ2020 – here she was, among other things, deeply involved in a major exhibition about Ørsted’s discoveries, which, despite the Corona-pandemic, was had more than 150,000 visitors, first in Rundetaarn July-September 2020, then at the Southern Danish University Library October-December 2020 and then at the Steno Museum in Aarhus throughout 2021. Right now, the majority of the exhibition is set up at the energy company Ørsted in Gentofte.Already in 1988, Dorte OIesen had become President of the Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science, founded by Hans Christian Ørsted in 1824. She has just handed over this post to the astrophysicist Anja C. Andersen, but she is still involved in the work, and the Society is thriving and experiencing a greatly increased interest in its activities.

Since 1990 she has been a member of Denmark’s oldest Zonta club, Copenhagen I. She has been Club President and member of numerous club committees. The 20 Danish clubs have a strong collaboration in Zonta Denmark, which is also Area 01 in District 13, and nationally Dorte Olesen has, among other things, been at the forefront of awarding special biannual Danish Zonta fellowships to female PhD students in engineering and natural sciences and annual Jane M. Klausman Women in Business scholarships to female business students with strong leadership potential. In the period July 2018- June 2020 she was Governor for ZI’s district 13, and July 2020- June 2022 International Director of Zonta International and Zonta Foundation for Women. Now she is back in district work as Chair of District 13’s UN and Council of Europe Committee, and the Amelia Earhart Committee.A number of other board positions have also taken her around Europe, in Denmark she has been a member of  the board of the natioanl newspaper Politiken, the insurance company Fagpension, The Pharmaceutical University and Roskilde University, where she was chairman of the first board in 2004. -2008. At European level, she was 2003-2009 President of the European research network organization TERENA, and in 2014-17 member of the board of the organization GEANT with offices in Amsterdam and Cambridge, a post requiring quite a bit of travel, so she left this in December 2017 to make time for becoming  Governor of District 13 in 2018 -20. Also the EU Commission has over many years asked her to participate in a large number of expert groups and as an evaluator for new IT development projects. In 2016, she was a member of a UN high-level expert group on a technology bank for the least developed countries set up by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She now sits on the board of the Politiken Foundation and Politiken Holding Company as well as the Society for the Dissemination of Natural Science, and has just joined the board of the Ellehammer Observatory.Leisure time is often spent in the garden, which over the years has become more and more biodynamic, so that both people, plants, birds and insects thrive. This applies both at home in Gentofte and in the summer house in Vollerup near Kalundborg, which the family has owned for more than 40 years.