Tuesday, 9 March marked the conferral of the 15,000th PhD at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). On that occasion Marco te Brömmelstroet defended his thesis, prepared under Professor Luca Bertolini of Urban and Regional Planning at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. The first UvA doctorate was awarded on 12 July 1878, when Diederik Johannes Korteweg (one of the authors of the Korteweg-de Vries Equation) was granted the title of Doctor of Mathematics and Physics for research conducted under Professor Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1910 Nobel Prize in Physics).
Korteweg wrote his thesis on the propagation speed of waves in elastic tubes. Two research institutes at the UvA were later named after Korteweg and Van der Waals in recognition of their major scientific contributions: the Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics and the Van der Waals-Zeeman Institute for Experimental Physics.
The UvA's first doctorate was awarded one year after the UvA's official founding as a university, though its predecessor, the Athenaeum Illustre, actually dated from 1632. Because the University was still quite modest in size, only a few dozen doctorates were awarded annually during its early years. In 1890, Marie du Saar became the first woman to earn her PhD at the UvA. Of the 381 PhD candidates who received their degrees more than a century later, in 2009, 47% were women.
Ever since 1891, the PhD ceremonies have been conducted in the UvA's main auditorium, the Aula. Initially located in the Oudemanhuispoort, it moved to its current location in the Oude Lutherse Kerk on the Singel in the 1960s. Since 2007, many ceremonies have also been held in the newly restored Agnietenkapel - the birthplace of the Athenaeum Illustre.