Rudolph Snellius

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Rudolph Snellius (Rudolph Snel van Royen (Oudewater, 5 October 1546 – Leiden, 2 March 1613) was a Dutch linguist and mathematician who held appointments at the University of Marburg and the University of Leiden. Snellius (the name being the Latinized form of his Dutch surname, Snel or Snell) was an influence on some of the leading political and intellectual forces of the Dutch Golden Age.


Born to a wealthy family in the Netherlands while the latter were under the dominion of the Spanish Habsburgs, Rudolf Snel grew up in the Utrecht city of Oudewater. At maturity he left to study at the University of Cologne under Valentin Naboth and at the University of Heidelberg under Immanuel Tremellius and soon received a teaching position at the University of Marburg. Though trained in Aristotelian logic, he had become impressed with the new logic of Petrus Ramus, which he taught along with mathematics and languages at his university posts.[1]

In 1578, he returned to Oudewater soon after its devastation in a Spanish siege during the Dutch Revolt. It was not long before he was offered, and accepted, a position as professor of Hebrew and mathematics at the University of Leiden. That summer he married Machteld Cornelisdochter, who had survived the Oudewater massacre. She accompanied him to Leiden, where he taught until his death in 1613.[2] Snellius was buried in the Grote kerk in his hometown Oudewater. He was the father of Willebrord Snellius (1580 – 1626).


While visiting Utrecht in 1575, he befriended the young Jacobus Arminius, then an impoverished student in Oudewater who would accompany him back to Marburg to take up his studies. Arminius, too, would return to Leiden to teach, and his theological doctrines would have an effect on the Reformation in Holland and beyond.[3] Another student of Snellius, this time at Leiden, was the child prodigy Hugo Grotius, who would not only become involved in the political battles surrounding Arminius, but would later establish himself as a founding political theorist of the early modern age. His son Willebrord was the astronomer and mathematician who gave his name to Snell's law.


  1. ^ Bangs, Carl. Arminius. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971, p. 37.
  2. ^ Bangs (1971), pp. 37-38.
  3. ^ Bangs, chapter 2.


  • Adam, Melchior. "Rudolphus Snellius". Vitae Germanorum philosophorum, qui seculo superiori, et quod excurrit, philosophicis ac humanioribus literis clari floruerunt.