Universiteit Leiden

The teacher of Europe
The teacher of Europe Portrait of Boerhaave, cameo, Wedgwood, 1782

He held no fewer than three chairs (Botany, Medicine and Chemistry). Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) was an all-rounder: doctor, anatomist, botanist, chemist, humanist and researcher. His contemporaries called him the teacher of Europe. He was also Rector, and thus a predecessor of Carel Stolker. Soon after its foundation, the University attracted important scholars, including the humanists Justus Lipsius and Josephus Scaliger.

‘Thunder church’
‘Thunder church’ Wooden model made by John Cuthbertson, 1780

They must have been magical moments, those first experiments with electricity, and plenty of experiments were taking place in the second half of the 18th century. This model of a church was used to demonstrate the use of a lightning rod. Scientists demonstrated that electrical forces could be controlled. There were often fierce debates within the University, which is only fitting for a university with the motto Praesidium Libertatis. ‘Let the lightning strike’.