This surname of VAN KAMPEN was a Dutch and French topographic name for someone who lived in or near a field or expanse of open country, or else in the countryside as opposed to a town. The name was derived from the Old French word CHAMP (field), and was rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form CAMPUS. The name is also spelt VAN DEN CAMP, CAN DEN KAMP, VAN CAMPEN, VAN KAMPEN, CAMP, DECHAMP and CHAMP. Habitation names were originally acquired by the original bearer of the name, who, having lived by, at or near a place, would then take that name as a form of identification for himself and his family. When people lived close to the soil as they did in the Middle Ages, they were acutely conscious of every local variation in landscape and countryside. Every field or plot of land was identified in normal conversation by a descriptive term. If a man lived on or near a hill or mountain, or by a river or stream, forests and trees, he might receive the word as a family name. Almost every town, city or village in early times, has served to name many families. A notable member of the name is Peter VAN DE KAMP, born in 1901, the Dutch-born American astronomer, born in Kampen in the Netherlands. He studied at Utrecht University and in 1923 emigrated to the United States, where he worked at the Lick Observatory in California and Virginia University. He became director of the Sproul Observatory in 1937 and professor of astronomy at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, and research professor after his retirement in 1972. Dutchmen who have surnames from towns, cities or districts, are mostly distinguished by the prefix VAN. In the United States the use of capital and initial letters and spaces is optional with the particular family. The Dutch language is most closely related to Low German, and its surnames have been influenced both by German and French naming practices. The preposition 'van' is found especially with habitation names, and the 'de' mainly with nicknames. Compared to other countries, Dutch heraldry is notably simpler, some of the shields bearing only a single charge. Generally speaking one helmet, one shield and one crest has been used, quartering is uncommon and mottoes are rare.
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