Leiden, University of

Leiden, University of,

at Leiden, the Netherlands; founded 1575 by William the Silent, Prince of Orange. It became a state institution in the 19th cent. It has faculties of theology, law, medicine, science, arts, social science, philosophy, and geography and prehistory.

Leiden, University of


(Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden), the oldest and largest university in the Netherlands. It was founded in Leiden by William of Orange in 1575 to commemorate the heroic defense of the city against the Spanish troops. Initially it had the typical faculties of a medieval university—theology, law, medicine, and the arts. In 1581 the library was founded (now the largest university library in the country, with holdings of about 2,000,000 in 1972). In 1597 an anatomy theater was built; in 1632, an astronomical observatory.

In the 17th century, the mathematician W. van Roijen Snell, the anatomist R. de Graaf, the physician H. Boerhaave, and other prominent scientists worked at the University of Leiden. During this period the university became the center for the development of philosophical thought in the Netherlands. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the physicists H. A. Lorentz, W. H. Keesom, and H. Kamerlingh Onnes worked at the university. Kamerlingh Onnes established a cryogenic laboratory, which became a world center for low-temperature physics.

In 1972, the University of Leiden included faculties of theology, law, medicine, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. A geological and mineralogical institute, founded in 1878, is connected with the university. In the 1971–1972 academic year, there were more than 11,000 students and about 400 teachers (including more than 200 professors). There is a fee for studying at the university.

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