Leiden University was one of the first universities in Europe to offer a practical mathematics course, taught in vernacular, parallel to a theoretical course. Why was this practical course taught and what did it teach students? The lecture notes of one of its first teachers can tell us a lot.
Whilst scientists have achieved undeniable successes over the centuries, many of them endured more than their fair share of disappointments, failures and disasters. Who deserves the title of most unfortunate scientist is still up for debate.
"God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands", Descartes supposedly once said. Leiden University Libraries acquired 40 photographs by Dutch photographer Marie-José Jongerius (b. 1970), who photographed an extreme example of this Dutch passtime.
Henri van Swinden's archive in the Leiden Special Collections contains four draft letters by Swiss mathematician Fatio De Duillier to Isaac Newton from 1693. The previously unpublished letters shed light on Newton’s alchemical practices and his reliance on circulation of knowledge.
In the nineteenth century, cholera outbreaks struck several cities in the Netherlands. Mapmakers struggled to aggregate the complex data gathered about the disease into clear cartographic images, a problem cartographers struggle with even today.