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Assistant professor Djoeke van Netten participated in the reprint of Menelaus Winsemius’s eugology of Adriaan Metius (1571 – 16350), which was published under the title Mathematics as family business. ‘This text provides an unique, personal insight into academic life in the early decades of the seventeenth century.’

Who was Adriaan Metius? 'Adriaan Metius was a professor of Mathematics at the University of Franeker. He came from a family of mathematicians in Alkmaar, hence the term family business in the title. Metius's father was a surveyor and fortifications expert for Prince Maurice, and his brother Jacob is believed to be one of the possible inventors of the telescope, which was invented in the Netherlands around 1608. As for who exactly invented the telescope, the jury is still out on that one.’

What makes this eulogy special?
'The author and speaker, Menelaus Winsemius, was a friend and colleague of Metius. He is able to divulge a lot of details about Metius’s life. Compared to other eulogies of the time, this one is relatively factual and objective. Furthermore, it provides information -unknown until now- about Jacob’s telescope, but is unfortunately inconclusive as to whether Jacob was definitely the inventor.’

The eulogy was untraceable for a long time. How was is rediscovered and subsequently republished?
'The eulogy was stored in the library of the University of Groningen, but not separately catalogued. It was accidently found by Goffe Jensma, professor of Frisian language and literature, who came up with the idea to republish it. Piter van Tuinen, a retired classicist, has translated the Latin text into readable Dutch, which in itself is a huge accomplishment. Jensma wrote an introduction with two PhDs doing research on Metius, one of whom was me. The extensive bibliography of Metius’s work that I compiled for my PhD thesis is also included in the book. What makes this project special is that we created one whole with people from different universities.’

The book appeared in the Waterbolk series, named after professor E.H. Waterbolk. His granddaughter is a student at the UvA?

'Yes, that’s nice isn’t it? Her name is Froukje Waterbolk and I am currently supervising her BA thesis. In Germany we call Waterbolk my academic grandfather, because Waterbolk is the PhD supervisor of my PhD supervisor. So in a certain sense Froukje is my niece. On behalf of the authors, I gave her a copy of the book, which means the circle is complete.’

Wiskunde als familiebedrijf : Menelaus Winsemius’ lijkrede op Adriaan Metius (1571-1635).

  • Arjen Dijkstra, Goffe Jensma ... [et al.]
  • E.H. Waterbolk-reeks ; 4 .
  • Groningen : Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2012.
  • 208 p. : ill. ; 20 cm .
  • ISBN: 9789036755870.