As visitor to Leiden and its surrounding areas there is one story you should absolutely know; that of Herman Boerhaave! He was once a student in Leiden and is still one of the most famous Dutch scientists ever to have lived.
Boerhaave was born on 31st of December 1668 in Voorhout, a small village near Leiden. During his teenage years he moved to Leiden to join the Latin School, the same school where the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, received his education. Boerhaave was a very ambitious young man. First he studied Philosophy, Theology and Mathematics at Leiden University. Next he decided to study Medicine. Unlike Dutch students today, Boerhaave did not have a government loan to finance his studies, but he received several gifts from wealthy acquaintances. So in a way, you could say they already used crowd funding in the 17th century.
During the 17th century medicine was obviously less advanced than it is nowadays. Boerhaave was an important innovator of our current medical science. Before Boerhaave, scientists believed in the teachings of the Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who wrote that there were four ‘humores’ which need to be in balance: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. From this, blood letting was developed, to counter any imbalance of humors in one’s body. These theories were very outdated and Boerhaave made great strides in medicine by experimenting on dead bodies. He became a teacher renowned well beyond the Netherlands and many admirers attended his lectures at Leiden University. There is even a story that a letter from China addressed to “Mister Boerhaave, physician, in Europe” was delivered to his home address in the Netherlands.
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