How to pronounce "Huygens"
In the physics community we have our heros, about whom we collect quotations,
legends, and so on. But we often don't know much about the history of these
giants, or even the pronunciation of their names.
A case in point is the Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens, whose name is
associated with optics (the famous "Huygens' Principle," which describes the
propagation of a wavefront). Physicists pronounce his name "hoy-gens"; at
least that's the way it was taught to me. But I always had a suspicion that
the guy who taught me waves was not a reliable source of correct pronunciation.
He came from Brooklyn, and used to say things like "...if you want to know the
lenth of moy hawpsichord strins.."
Anyway, I had a chance to find out, when I moved to Lexington, Massachusetts,
and lived in a small community with five Dutch families. I asked one of them
how they pronounced "hoygens," to which they replied "Who??!!" I tried a few
more times, finally spelling it out, which did the trick. I can't easily
transcribe the way they say it, but I did make a recording of four different
native Dutch speakers saying this gentleman's name. They volunteered that I
might be interested in another famous Dutch optical luminary, namely Antony van
Leeuwenhoek; he's there, too. Checkitout by clicking on the link below
Click here to get the authentic mp3 file, about a minute long.