Rijksmuseum Boerhaave is the national museum of the history of science and medicine. It was established in 1931.

What were the major discoveries in the history of science in the Netherlands? Who were the researchers behind them and how great is the impact of their discoveries on our lives today? Find out more about their inventions and join us in thinking about today’s big issues.

With a collection spanning five centuries of research and innovation and based on close collaboration with prominent modern scientists, Rijksmuseum Boerhaave offers visitors of all ages a fascinating insight into the world of science.

Who was Herman Boerhaave?

Our museum has been named after Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738), one of the leading scientists in Europe in his day. He was an allrounder: a skilled physician, anatomist, botanist, chemist, humanist and researcher. He 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 was also Rector of the University of Leiden and Director of the Hortus botanicus.

Herman Boerhaave - painted by Cornelis Troost

The monumental building

Approaching the building from the street, it is not immediately obvious that Rijksmuseum Boerhaave is located in a magnificent monument with a rich history. Originally built as St Caecilia’s Convent in 1440, the building next sheltered the city’s plague victims and the mentally afflicted. The building then went on to become the first academic hospital in Northern Europe as St Caecilia’s Hospital. Some three hundred years ago, Herman Boerhaave instructed his students here at his patients’ bedside.


The Ambassadors of National Museum Boerhaave:

  • José van Dijck, Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University
  • Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
  • Ewine van Dishoeck, President Elect, International Astronomical Union and Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at Leiden University
  • Gerard ’t Hooft, Physics Nobel Prize Laureate
  • Henk van Houten, Chief Technology Officer at Philips
  • André Kuipers, Astronaut and ambassador of Techniekpact
  • Henri Lenferink, Mayor of Leiden
  • Marjan van Loon, CEO, Shell Netherlands
  • Wim Pijbes, Director, Stichting Droom en Daad
  • Willy Spaan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of LUMC
  • Carel Stolker, Rector Magnificus and chairman of the Executive Board of Leiden University
  • Herman Wijffels, Professor of Sustainability and Social Change, Utrecht University

The objects of National Museum Boerhaave amaze and move

Robbert Dijkgraaf


We welcome many visitors on a daily basis. They come for the permanent and temporary exhibitions, our wide range of educational programmes, the educational activity spaces for children and all sorts of events, workshops and lectures.

As we consider service and a hospitable welcome highly valuable, we are very grateful to be able to rely on our volunteer hosts, hostesses and guides. In addition, volunteers also provide important practical and technical assistance to our technical service, restoration and storage departments.

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