A Brill Calendar: January 17
Few universities between the 17th to the 18th centuries rival Leyden when it comes to modernity and international orientation.
The doctoral title in medical sciences conveyed on Nicolaas Bidloo on January 1697 may illustrate such an opinion. The father of the young Doctor, Govert Bidloo (Amsterdam, March 12, 1649 – Leyden, March 30, 1713) was a Professor in Anatomy since 1694; at a time that it was by no means exceptional that a father acted as ‘Promotor’ for his ‘Promovendus’ son. Senior was a most colourful figure before he entered the ranks of Academia; with his activities as producer of spectacular performances of plays by the ‘Dutch Shakespeare’, Joost van den Vondel, and as entrepreneurial investor in the municipal theatre of Amsterdam.
An accomplished poet, Father Bidloo had translated French plays of playwrights like Corneille and Molière into his mother tongue, while writing the first Dutch classicist pieces in that foreign vein, before he turned Professor. Following his learned assignment in Leyden, Bidloo took the post of personal physician to Great-Britain’s King William III, who combined that mighty position with the function of Stadholder in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces.
It is seldom that a son can follow the example set by his father as faithfully as Nicolaas Bidloo; admittedly, in this case, without the benevolent graces of Terpsichore, Muse of the Theatre. The Tsar of all the Russias, Peter the Great, visited with his ‘Grand Embassy’ The Netherlands in the year of young Bidloo’s doctorate, 1697. Professor Govert’s son was fascinated by the Mighty Emperor of an Exotic Nation, and ended up as personal physician to the first and greatest Romanov.
So, even before the days of Herman Boerhaave, the top-notch European medical scholar of the first half of the 18th century, Leyden was a breeding ground for medical scholars fit to foster and restore the health of Heads of State.