Leiden or Leyden (both: lĪˈdən) [key], city (1994 pop. 114,892), South Holland prov., W Netherlands, on the Old Rhine (Oude Rijn) River. Manufactures include medical equipment, machinery, graphic arts, and food products. The famous State Univ. of Leiden is there (founded 1575), the oldest in the Netherlands. It was a center for the study of Protestant theology, classical and oriental languages, science, and medicine in the 17th and 18th cent. The university is particularly noted for its departments of Asian studies, physics, and astronomy, as well as its botanical garden (founded 1590); the Leyden jar was invented there. The city dates from Roman times, and Leiden has had an important textile industry since the 16th cent., when an influx of weavers came from Ypres. The city took a prominent part in the revolt (late 16th cent.) of the Netherlands against Spanish rule. Besieged and reduced to starvation in 1574, it was saved from surrender when William the Silent ordered the flooding of the surrounding land by cutting the dikes, thus enabling the fleet of the Beggars of the Sea (see Gueux) to sail to its relief across the countryside. Leiden became famous as a center of printing after the Elzevir family established (1580) its press. The city was the home of many of the Pilgrims for about 10 years before they embarked (1620) for America. Leiden was the birthplace of the Anabaptist leader John of Leiden and of the painters Jan van Goyen, Jan Steen, Lucas van Leyden, and Rembrandt. The city has a 10th-century fortress; two old churches, the Pieterskerk (14th cent.) and the Hooglandsche Kerk (15th cent.); several museums; and many 17th-century houses.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Benelux Political Geography