The Kennedy Center

Jonkheer Jacob van Eyck


Jacob Van Eyck was born blind into an aristocratic family in the town of Heusden in Holland.  He was one of five children and both his parents were of noble birth, his father Goyart van Eyck and mother Heilwich Bax.

In 1622 Jacob Van Eyck started his career by working and being responsible for maintenance of the carillon in Heusden.  He learned how to change the pegs of the carillon’s mechanical drum and he even played the instrument.  It was there he learned the skills to become the carillon player of the Dom Tower of Utrecht.  Career opportunities in Heusden were limited by his handicap, so to allow him to fully develop his skills in 1623 he went to Utrecht.  While there he became an expert in the field of bells.  He was appointed carillonneur at the Dom in 1625, at the highest church tower in the Netherlands.  In 1628 he was named the Director of the bell works.  His job was to provide technical supervision of the bells of all Utrecht parish churches and the town hall.  It was also during this time that he became a teacher and taught the children the carillon. He used a  keyboard with 30 small bells, this helped him to teach his pupils.
Many of his contemporaries like René Descartes, Isaac Beeckman and other scientists admired his knowledge of acoustics, bell casting and bell tuning and bell playing came to Utrecht to study with him.  In 1633 Dutch scientist Isaac Beeckman journalized his secrets of bell tuning, casting and how to isolate sound and how it’s influenced by the bell shape.  René Descartes wrote a letter to the French music theorist Marin Mersenne that described his ability to isolate bell sounds without touching the bell, simply by means of whistling, using the resonance principle.  Jacob van Eyck died on March 26, 1657 and for three hours, the bells of the Janskerk, the Jacobikerk and the Dom all tolled in his memory.
Jonkheer Jacob van Eyck