Casparus Barlaeus (1584-1648)

Caspar van Baerle (Barlaeus in Latin) was one of the best known scholars of his day. He was professor in philosophy at Leiden University as well as a preacher, writer and poet. When Amsterdam got its own college – the Athenaeum Illustre – in 1632, the city council managed to recruit Barlaeus as one of its first two professors. The Athenaeum Illustre (‘Illustrious School’) was based in the St. Agnes Chapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal and was the first institution for higher education in Amsterdam. Before this time the only school in the city open to the boys of Amsterdam was the Latin School (a kind of grammar school). The curriculum of the Athenaeum was similar to that of a university, but the school was not authorised to confer doctorates. On 8 January 1632 Barlaeus’s colleague Gerardus Vossius inaugurated the Athenaeum with a speech on the value of history. The next day Barlaeus held his oration on the mercator sapiens, the wise tradesman who was also well versed in the subject of science. Barlaeus filled the position as professor of philosophy and rhetoric for the rest of his life. In 1877 the Athenaeum was elevated to the status of University of Amsterdam and authorised to confer doctorates.