Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in Leiden opened in 1931, initially as the Dutch Historical Museum of the Natural Sciences. Its first director was the physicist August Crommelin. Since 1991, it has occupied premises in the former St. Caecilia’s infirmary. The museum is named after Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), a well-known professor of medicine at the city’s university.
The collection of Rijksmuseum Boerhaave consists of 120,000 objects that together reflect five centuries of the history of science in the Netherlands. They include scientific instruments, books, prints, and pictorial material. The museum owns a number of maps by Willem Blaeu, including The Four Continents (Europe, Africa, America, and Asia), dating from 1619. Another important item in the collection is the book Metamorphosis of Surinamese Insects by Maria Sibylla Merian (1705).
The collection of historical scientific instruments includes superb items such as Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes, Christiaan Huygens’s first pendulum clock, and the world’s oldest heliocentric planetarium, as well as anatomical specimens and objects belonging to Dutch Nobel laureates. The museum also owns the oldest telescope in the Netherlands. There is also a replica of Leiden University’s anatomical theater, which was in use between 1594 and 1821.