Monday 15 June 2009

Are these Famous Belgians worthy?

Last month we had lots of suggestions but nobody really strong or worthy enough of being added.

This month we have had quite a few strong contenders, some of whom may be worth adding to the list. Visitors to will decide.
  1. Robert Cailliau who invented the Internet in partnership with Sir Tim Berners-Lee (nominated by Alexis Biller)
  2. Tia Hellebaut, the Gold medal winner in the ladies High Jump at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with 2.05m (nominated by Peter Biddlecombe)
  3. The Dardenne Brothers, the Belgian film directors who were awarded the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for both "Rosetta" (1999) and "L'enfant' (2005), the only two Belgian films ever to be awarded the honour (nominated by Chris Orgelt)
  4. Axelle Red, the Belgian singer who is also extremely popular in France. In 1999 she won the highest French award, the Victoires de la Musique, for best female artist (nominated by Chris Orgelt)
  5. Frank de Winne, Belgium's second astronaut after Dirk Frimout. His first spaceflight was a trip to the International Space Station in November 2002. On 27 May 2009, he entered space again for a 6-month mission as the Commander for Expedition 21 to the International Space Station. He is the first ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut to command an expedition. Most people will deny that Belgium has astronauts, in fact, we have two of them! (nominated by Chris Orgelt)
  6. Luc Tuymans, one of today's most influential painters. He exhibited solo at the Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery in London and a comprehensive retrospective of his work is scheduled at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2010 (nominated by Chris Orgelt)
  7. Julius Nieuwland, who invented synthetic rubber in 1920 and was instrumental to the invention of Neoprene by DuPont in 1931 (nominated by Walter Willaert)
  8. Marcel Nicolet, the Belgian physicist who made important discoveries in the field of Astronautics. He is generally credited with the discovery of the heliosphere (nominated by Walter Willaert)
  9. Marouane Fellaini, the Belgian international footballer, who joined Everton Football Club in the UK Premier League for an initial fee of £15 million in 2008 (nominated by Graham Bishop)
  10. Pierre Celis, who started brewing the famous Belgian beer "Hoegaarden" back in 1966. It is now one of the most popular beers in the world (nominated by Tony green)

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Results of latest vote

Visitors to have been voting during May which people should be added to the list of famous Belgians. The results are shown below :

1. Kate Ryan (26 votes)
2. Leo Martin (14 votes)
3. Technotronic (12 votes)
4. Rik de Saedeleer (5 votes)
5. Jos Ghijsen (5 votes)
6. Sabine Appelmans (2 votes)
7. Gaston Berghmans (2 votes)
8. Walter Capiau (0 votes)
9. Lynn Wesenbeek (0 votes)
10. None of the above (44 votes)

Kate Ryan comes out on top with 26 votes but that is not enough to be added to the list I'm afraid. More than 40 people thought nobody on the list was worthy and I quite agree.

For those of you who don't know Kate Ryan, she is a well-known Belgian singer who represented Belgium in the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest. Sadly, she didn't get through to the Final. Her official website is She recently recorded a modern version of France Gall's song "Ella, elle l'a" which did quite well and is not a bad dance tune.

Leo Martin (left in the picture) is a comedian from Antwerp who sadly died in 1993. He was one half of the massively popular comedy duo "Gaston en Leo" (Gaston Berghmans en Leo Martin), the Belgian equivalent to the British comedy duo Morecambe & Wise. Their most famous sketches were "Joske Vermeulen" and "De Gouden Leeuw". If you don't speak Dutch/Flemish you probably won't find it funny but it is hilarious if you understand the language. When Leo Martin died from lung cancer, it was a huge blow for his partner Gaston and he never really recovered from it. He is now 83 and, I suspect, still misses him terribly.

Technotronic are best known for their massive 1989 worldwide hit "Pump Up The Jam" which was No 2 in the UK charts and No 2 in the US Hot 100.

I will be compiling a new list of candidates this week from suggestions sent in by visitors last month. There are some interesting ones this time and hopefully some of them will receive a few more votes. Check the blog next week to see the new list.

Marc Tielemans

Friday 5 June 2009 has now been upgraded

Well, it has taken several months, but the website has now been revised and updated with lots of new information and features. I hope you all like it ... if you have any comments, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

There is now a Top 10 of Famous Belgians. This will be updated monthly. Please let me know what your personal Top 10 is.

There is also a new section which lists the new names that have been suggested by visitors to the site. It's up to you to decide if they are worthy of being added to the main list of Famous Belgians.

Navigation has been dramatically improved and it should now be very easy to find what you want. You can browse the list either alphabetically or by category, or you can just type a name in the Google search box at the bottom of every page. This will search the whole of and get you to your target quickly.

Virtually every Belgian now has his/her picture included so you can see what they look like (or looked like if they are no longer alive!).

And most importantly, there is this blog. I hope you will find it interesting, I will be posting articles here on a regular basis.

Best wishes,

Marc Tielemans

Saturday 2 May 2009

What is Belgium's Most Successful Product ?

If you thought Belgian beer and chocolates were Belgium's top products, think again. But if it's not beer or chocolates, then what is it?

The good old plain, boring barbed wire fence is your answer. It was not invented by a Belgian (that honour goes to Joseph Glidden, 1873) but Leo Leander Bekaert, a young shopkeeper from Zwevelgem in Flanders, was very quick off the mark and founded Bekaert N.V. a few years later in 1880. He recognised the potential immediately and knew that virtually every farmer would buy it to keep their animals secure in their fields.

Incidentally, you can read about the history of the barbed wire fence here :

He started making and selling barbed wire and quickly expanded. When cars became popular, he started making steel cord for radial tyre reinforcement and Bekaert's production exploded. The company also makes steel fibers for concrete reinforcement, offshore drilling anchor cables, steel rope, communication cables, window film and engine coatings.

If you have ever been skiing in Europe, chances are that you were transported up the mountain in a ski lift suspended from one of Bekaert's steel rope wires. Their products are also used in the heat shield of the Space Shuttle.

Bekaert now has over 80 production centres world-wide and operates in 120 countries. It now generated sales in excess of EUR 2.7 billion and employs nearly 20,000 people. It is the undisputed world leader in its field today.

Leo Leander Bekaert's son (Leon Bekaert) really made the company what it is today and he deserves most of the credit. When he died, his son Anton (now a Baron) inherited the family fortune and is now one of the richest men in Europe, with an estimated wealth of 761 million Euro.

So next time you are out walking in a field along a barbed wire fence, or going up a skilift in Austria, spare a thought for Leo Leander Bekaert who had more than something to do with it ...

For more Famous Belgians, go to my website

Tuesday 28 April 2009

The birth of a new Blog

I have finally been dragged into the 21st century and persuaded by visitors of that a Blog is an essential tool to improve communication and encourage people to come back for more information.

So, from now on, I will regularly update this Blog and enlighten you with information about all things Belgian and, in particular, about that rarest of breed, the Famous Belgian ...

Happy reading !