About Museum Boerhaave

The Netherlands has a great history in the development of sciences and medicine. Museum Boerhaave shows over five centuries of inventions and discoveries in several sciences. 

A short description:

Museum Boerhaave is the Dutch National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine. In 1931 it opened its doors. Since 1991 Museum Boerhaave is located in the former Caecilia Hospital, in the centre of Leiden. In terms of the history of science and medicine, the collections in Museum Boerhaave are among the most important in the world. This history begins in the middle of the 16th century, which is also the time of the earliest objects on display in the museum, including the not-to-be-missed world’s oldest herbarium. From the Dutch ‘golden age’ (17th century) come Willem Blaeu’s giant quadrant, microscopes by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and pendulum clocks by Christiaan Huygens, his planetarium and telescope. The 18th century is splendidly represented by the cabinets – science demonstration laboratories – of professors ‘s Gravesande and Van Musschenbroek. The huge quantity of 19th-century objects includes Dr Zander’s physiotherapeutic devices and the papier-mâché anatomical models of Dr Auzoux. The 20th century was a second golden age in the nation’s scientific endeavours. Dutch researchers won Nobel Prize after Nobel Prize: Van ‘t Hoff, Lorentz, Zeeman, Van der Waals, Kamerlingh Onnes and Willem Einthoven are represented many times in the museum.

Museum Boerhaave has curators in the different kinds of fields the museum represents, has its own, well equipped restoration atelier, and also an information centre with expertise about collection databases and digitisations of archive material.

Building

The historic building in which Museum Boerhaave is located has had various functions over time. The original nunnery of St Caecilia dates from the early 15th century. Originally a nunnery, the building had become municipal property after the Reformation and shortly before 1600 was converted into a ‘plague hospital and madhouse’. In 1635 it became an University hospital. It was here, around 1720, that Herman Boerhaave gave his famous sickbed lessons that drew medical students to Leiden from around the world.
After extensive restoration, the building has been used as a museum since 1991. The Boerhaave rooms are used for temporary exhibitions.

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