The Times wrote: ‘This is one of the most important scientific and medical history collections in the world’. As a national treasury of science, Museum Boerhaave puts five centuries of history on display regarding natural sciences and medicine. The emphasis lies on contributions from the Netherlands, including the microscopes made by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the oldest Dutch planetarium, inventions by Christiaan Huygens and objects once owned by Dutch Nobel Prize laureates. The museum was named after legendary professor Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) who made Leiden University into the most famous institute of higher learning of Europe. It is situated in the former Caecilia hospital which is a museum all on its own. This listed building dates from 1440 and is located right in the middle of downtown Leiden.
Herman Boerhaave was born 350 years ago and became one of the leading scientists in Europe. He was an allrounder: a skilled physician, anatomist, botanist, chemist, humanist and researcher. Herman Boerhaave had a great reputation as a teacher at the University of Leiden and for a long time held three of the five chairs in its Faculty of Medicine. He also was Rector of the University of Leiden and Director of the Hortus botanicus.
European Museum of the Year 2019
At Rijksmuseum Boerhaave you get to discover more about the most important inventions from the history of science in the Netherlands. Which scientists were behind them and what is the impact of their discoveries on our lives? The new museum won the prestigious European Museum of the Year Award 2019. The museum route takes you through several themes. Let me briefly introduce them to you.
This is the only anatomical theatre in the Netherlands. It is a replica of Leiden University’s Anatomical Theatre built in 1594. A fascinating and engaging multimedia show is an interesting introduction on our museum and takes you through five centuries of science history.
Here everything revolves around new notions of heaven and earth and the overwhelming explosion of knowledge that took place in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. You will come across top pieces such as the world’s oldest heliocentric planetarium, maps by Blaeu, nature drawings by Maria Sibylla Merian and of course Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s microscope.
Sickness & Health
Learn more about innovations in medicine: from bloodletting to blood transfusions and from amputations to complex transplants. Marvel at the very first artificial kidney and iron lung. Follow the developments in childbirth. And join us in thinking about the dilemmas facing the world of medicine tomorrow.
Scientists compiled marvellous collections in the eighteenth century. Relish exquisite plants and animals from far-away countries and magnificent projections from rare and valuable books. Here you will see how the predecessors of Google and Wikipedia went about their business.
Water, Electricity & Data
Water plays an important role in our history. According to an old Dutch saying: ‘God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.’ Here you step into the world of engineering and let historical objects and instructive interactive games guide you on your way. How do we pump polders dry? What can you do with electrical current? How ultrafast is the quantum computer?
Einstein’s search, that of Dutch Nobel Prize Winners of the past and pioneering scientists of the present lead to new discoveries about our brain, our place in the universe and the workings of our DNA. Curiosity knows no boundaries and today’s answers yield tomorrow’s questions.
The museum currently has an exhibition on Herman Boerhaave and the Golden Age of science. Around 1700, the Netherlands was one of the richest countries in Europe. This wealth contributed to a golden age of science, in which a scholar like Boerhaave could develop his talents. Our other temporary exhibition is on the entire collection of handwritten letters by Albert Einstein. Including his fountain pen that he used when writing his general theory of relativity and gravity. And the telegram that the Leiden professor Hendrik Lorentz sent to Einstein in 1919, when the observations of the solar eclipse by the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington proved that Einstein was right.
Fun for kids
The museum received the Kids Proof Award 2019, and not without reason. The museum includes many interactive exhibits. And there is more. Visit our Treasure Island Boerhaave and join us on a journey of discovery in the Golden Age. Come and play in our open-air water playground Waterland in spring and summer. And we offer fun workshops during school holidays.