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We are Science

For over 200 years, we have been a strong community of committed staff and students who jointly strive for excellence.

How the Faculty of Science started

The Netherlands became a kingdom in 1815, and it was no coincidence that the Faculty of Science was established in the same year. Leiden University had already existed since 1575, and subjects like mathematics and astronomy were taught from the very beginning in Leiden. A Faculty of Science, however, did not exist. But with the new kingdom, the Netherlands got its own higher education law. That law stipulated that there would be five Faculties. Following the French example, the old Faculty of the Artes Liberales (the seven liberal arts), was split into a Faculty of 'reflective philosophy and literature' and a Faculty of 'mathematics and natural sciences'.

The new law was based on the assumption that mathematics and physics, chemistry, natural history, and plant science were taught at every university. Also, economics could be taught in Leiden. Professors were not appointed in a course, but in the Faculty. They decided themselves how subjects were divided.

For the candidate exam, the students were interviewed in four subjects: mathematics, experimental physics, astronomy and the general principles of natural history and plant science. For the doctoral, the programme included: applied mathematics, mathematical physics, mathematical astronomy, applied chemistry, and geology.

The Faculty of Science today

Today, we consist of eight institutes that together span the entire width of natural sciences: from mathematics, computer science, astronomy, and physics, to chemistry, drug research, biology, and environmental sciences. We are also very proud that the oldest Hortus botanicus in the Netherlands is part of our Faculty. We further host the renowned Lorentz Center, a centre for international workshops in all scientific disciplines. 

Throughout our history, we have delivered high-quality education and scientific excellence, with for example 6 Nobel Prize winners, and as recent as 2018 our astrophysicist Ewine van Dishoeck won the Kavli Prize. We are currently the most successful Dutch Faculty in terms of Spinoza Prize winners, the highest scientific award in the Netherlands since 1995, with no less than 9 laureates.

Our staff consists of over 2,200 people of over 80 nationalities, with 150 full Professors and over 800 PhD candidates, but also many support staff members who work behind the screens to make research and education possible every day. We have over 5,000 students in 8 bachelor's and 14 master's programmes.

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