Jan Terlouw studied at Utrecht University where he earned a PhD degree in nuclear physics and worked in the Netherlands, the United States, and Sweden. After 13 years as a physicist, he became a politician, joining the Dutch House of Representatives and acted as party leader from 1973-1982. He was minister of Economic Affairs from 1981 to 1982 and Commissar of the Queen of Gelderland from 1991 to 1996, the year in which he retired. He joined the Dutch Senate in 1999. He also wrote various children's books, notably Winter in Wartime (1972) and How to Become King (1978). Terlouw is currently married with four children.