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The university and the city of Groningen have evolved together for more than four centuries.

The UEF was named after Ubbo Emmius, the university's first rector magnificus.

Explore who Ubbo Emmius was, and how the UEF carries on his contribution to science in the 21st century.

First rector magnificus

The Ordines was issued in 1614 as the founding charter of the University of Groningen, paving the way for more than 400 years of academic scholarship. Ubbo Emmius would describe the Ordines as an “eternally valid decree” in which he depicted the city of Groningen as follows: “... well-known for its alluring location, the air is pristine and wholesome, the supply of foods abundant and readily available in all varieties, and there exists a wealth of pleasant accommodations”...

The founding charter was printed on placards that were distributed throughout the Netherlands and abroad, in hopes of enticing prospective students to register. In 1614, the University of Groningen commenced with 6 professors for the faculties of Theology, Law, Medicine and Liberal Arts. There were a total of 82 students, 30 of whom were not originally from the Netherlands.

More than four centuries later, the University of Groningen has 6,500 employees, 1,600 of whom are non-Dutch, and a student body of 34,000 that includes 8,250 foreign students.

Pictured: the Ordines, the original founding charter of the University of Groningen from 1614. For more details, please consult this Dutch translation by Zweder von Martels.

The Dissemination of Knowledge

In addition to the institution's first rector magnificus, Ubbo Emmius was a professor of history. He had a special interest in historical chronology: a then novel way of systematically organizing historical events in structured timelines.

In 1619, he wrote a history of the world titled Opus chronologicum novum pluribus partibus constans, or a new chronological work in multiple sections. Printed in precious colored ink, his recordings were among the first major publications from the university.

Historical events as presented in 17th century history books often lacked a sense of order. By designing hand-drawn timelines based on his own calculations, Ubbo Emmius created a new way of advancing the scholarship of his time. His work added a spatial dimension to the recording of history by introducing data into the narratives about the past.

Much like the contemporary researchers that work with the UEF today, Ubbo Emmius was dedicated to making science accessible to a broader audience. His work is a lasting reminder of the important role the University of Groningen has played in the dissemination of knowledge for more than four centuries.

First page printed in color of Opus Chronologicum Novum (1619), a history of the world by Ubbo Emmius

An example of the timelines Ubbo Emmius drew by hand, in order to present historical events as accurately as possible

Love for Nature

While Ubbo Emmius was not a biologist, his work frequently spoke to a great appreciation for the natural surroundings in the northern part of the Netherlands. As the future of the region’s flora and fauna can no longer be taken for granted, the UEF is funding projects in the spirit of his admiration.

In his Rerum Frisicarum Historiae, or History of the Frisian Lands, he gave a uniquely detailed impression of the natural scenery in the year 1616:

“And there exists a plethora of different types of birds: marine, coastal, terrestrial and domestic. In some areas one finds enormous and incredible numbers of swans in the streams and ponds, as well as an infinite number of geese and ducks.

Divers, coots, hazel grouses, partridges, doves, peacocks, wood grouses, cranes, thrushes, sparrows, seagulls, peewits and many other species occur in swarms so large they are not only able to be of practical use to the people, but may provide them with luxury also.

And while some birds are considered refined delicacies, others may give enjoyment, especially the thrushes. During most of the year, their unwavering singing rings across the entire land, to the exceptional delight of those who hear it.”

Ubbo Emmius at a glance

Ubbo Emmius was born in the German town of Greetsiel (Eastern Frisia) in 1547. He would travel to Geneva to study under French lawyer and theologist Theodore de Beza, and returned to his home country in 1579 to become dean of the school in the town of Leer.

While in Leer, he encountered prominent inhabitants from Groningen who had fled the Netherlands, which was still occupied by the Spaniards. When Groningen finally expelled the Spanish occupier in 1594, Ubbo Emmius was invited as the new dean for the city's Latin School.

In 1612, Groningen's regional authorities decided to erect an "illustrous school" that would evolve into the University of Groningen. The academy was inaugurated in 1614 with Ubbo Emmius as the institution's first rector magnificus. He would dedicate a significant part of his life to the historiography of Frisia: his Rerum Frisicarum Historiae was published in 60 sections between 1592 and 1616.

Ubbo Emmius died on 9 December 1625. His tombstone is still on display in the main halls of the university's academy building, featuring the following epitaph: "in eternal remembrance of the renowned and virtuous elder Ubbo Emmius, a Frisian from Greetsiel, first rector of the academy, theologist of pure doctrine, excellent philologist, impeccable historiographer."

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