Born as an illegitimate child of a priest from Rotterdam, Desiderius Erasmus later grew up to be a significant figure of the northern Renaissance. He is remembered for his research on free will and for being the first to edit the New Testament, replacing traditional elements with new-age humanism.
Dutch politician and VVD party leader Mark Rutte has been serving his nation as its prime minister since 2010. While he initially aspired to be a pianist, he later studied history and then worked for Unilever, before stepping into politics. He is known as Teflon Mark for recovering from controversies unscathed.
Best known for his iconic book De jure belli ac pacis, or The Rights of War and Peace, Hugo Grotius was a Dutch humanist and author, who had also been a jurist. Due to his involvement in the Calvinist debate, he was exiled to France, where he penned most of his significant works.
The queen consort of the Netherlands, Queen Máxima is the daughter of Argentine politician Jorge Zorreguieta. She initially worked in the sales departments of HSBC and Deutsche Bank. She apparently didn’t know she was meeting a prince when she met her future husband, King Willem-Alexander, at the Seville Spring Fair.
A Dutch sociology professor, Pim Fortuyn was also a prominent politician, who founded the Pim Fortuyn List party. Known for his Islamophobic and anti-immigration comments, he was also openly gay. He was assassinated by a Dutch animal rights activist, who confessed to shooting him for targeting weaker communities in his political campaigns.
After studying subjects such as literature and theology, Abraham Kuyper became a pastor and founded the Calvinist paper De Standaard. He later established the Anti-Revolutionary Party and also served the Netherlands as prime minister. He was also the founder of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.
Best known for his The Waning of the Middle Ages, Dutch historian Johan Huizinga is considered one of the pioneers of modern cultural history. Apart from teaching history, he had also taught Indian literature and was once detained by the Nazis for his criticism of fascism.
Dutch politician Ruud Lubbers scripted history as the longest-serving prime minister of his country, having held the office for over a decade. He had also been the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. A bright student of economics, he had initially aspired to be academician but took up construction management and eventually, politics.
Apart from teaching sociology at Columbia University and LSE, sociologist Saskia Sassen has also devoted over 3 decades of her life to research. She introduced the term global city. The daughter of a Dutch Nazi journalist, she grew up in Argentina and Italy, before studying in France.
Dutch theologian and professor Jacobus Arminius opposed the orthodox Calvinism of his time and introduced a new system, known as Arminianism, in response. He is remembered for his Opera theologica, published posthumously, and for paving the path for the growth of Methodism in the West.
After graduating in agricultural economics, Jeroen Dijsselbloem began his career as an Agriculture & Environment policy officer at the European Parliament. The Labour Party politician later helmed the Dutch ministry of finance and is now the chairman of the Dutch Safety Board. He has also headed the Eurogroup as its president.
Best remembered for his econometric models, Jan Tinbergen won the first Nobel Prize for Economics along with Ragnar Frisch. Apart from working on subjects such as the business cycle theory and economic development, he had also been the economic advisor to the League of Nations.
A Holocaust survivor, Bloeme Evers-Emden was deported to Auschwitz on the same train as Anne Frank’s family. She grew up to be a prominent child psychologist and lecturer and devoted herself to the research related to the “hidden children" of World War II. Her books include Borrowed Children.
Anglo-Dutch social philosopher Bernard Mandeville is best remembered for his satirical work The Fable of the Bees. A qualified physician just like his father, he later settled in London, where he gained fame with his writings. He believed that even the most negative actions are capable of producing positive outcomes.
Best remembered for introducing the concepts of the fixed-point theorem and mathematical intuitionism, Dutch mathematician L. E. J. Brouwer was dragged into a controversy when he opposed David Hilbert’s formalism. He was also interested in philosophy and penned volumes such as Life, Art, and Mysticism.
Dutch documentary maker Sunny Bergman is best known for exploring controversial topics such as beauty standards, racism, and sexuality. Her works such as Sunny Side of Sex and Limited Tenability have challenged the mainstream ideals of life. She is also an activist, an author, and an actor.
A Carmelite friar and Catholic priest, Titus Brandsma initially taught theology in the Netherlands. A strong critic of Nazi ideals, he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was starved and beaten, and eventually poisoned to death. In 1985, he was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II.
Dutch naturalist Jan Swammerdam was the first to detect red blood cells. Though a qualified doctor, he never practiced medicine, and took to research instead. Known for his research on anatomy, he also revolutionized the study of insects, proving that the egg, larva, pupa, and adult are all the same organism.
A pragmatic Dutch political leader, Joop den Uyl studied economics and worked as a civil servant before serving as the country’s prime minister in the 1970s. The Labour Party member is remembered for his social-welfare programs. An anti-military campaigner, he reduced the Dutch military budget and supported international disarmament.
Sixteenth-century pope Adrian VI remains the only Dutch to have been a pope and was the last non-Italian pope till John Paul II’s election after over 400 years. He wished to reform the Church but wasn’t able to do much, as he was strongly opposed by many, including Italian cardinals.
Cornelius Jansen was the Dutch Catholic bishop of Ypres best remembered as the father of an early modern theological movement called Jansenism, which was declared a heresy by the Roman Catholic Church. Jansenism was used as a major political force in France up until the French Revolution.
Gemma Frisius introduced the triangulation method for map-making, that is still an integral part of surveys these days. He also created detailed globes and mathematical instruments and was a co-founder of the Netherlandish school of cartography. He also released the first published drawing of a pinhole camera obscura.
Dutch-American sculptor Coosje van Bruggen is best known for her collaborations with her sculptor husband, Claes Oldenburg. Their works include Shuttlecocks at the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park and Flashlight at the University of Nevada. She has also penned several books and been a sculpture critic at Yale University.
Hailed as the Father of the Euro or Mr. Europe, Wim Duisenberg was the first president of the European Central Bank and managed the introduction of a common currency in Europe. He had also been the director of the Nederlandsche Bank and the Dutch minister of finance.
Dutch traveler and trader Jan Huyghen van Linschoten spent 6 years as the bookkeeper of the archbishop of Goa, which was under Portuguese rule then. He wrote important texts, detailing the life and culture of the East Indies, which later helped the Dutch and the English set up trade hubs in India.
Apart from teaching law at Vrije Universiteit, Herman Dooyeweerd also made significant contributions to the domain of philosophy. He co-established the neo-Calvinistic movement known as Reformational philosophy and is best remembered for his suite of fifteen aspects. His works include his 4-volume magnum opus A New Critique of Theoretical Thought.
Dutch painter and poet Karel van Mander was a significant part of the Mannerist movement. Best known for his Het Schilder-boeck, or The Book of Painters, a biographical work on artists and painters of northern Europe, he was patronized by the Haarlem city council.
Geert Groote was a Dutch Catholic deacon best remembered for founding the Brethren of the Common Life. Groote also played an important role in the Devotio Moderna movement, which promoted genuine pious practices like obedience, humility, and simplicity of life.
Apart from being a chess master, Adriaan de Groot was a renowned psychologist who is best remembered for his research on the cognitive processes found in the brains of chess players. He also represented the Netherlands in the Chess Olympiads twice and was part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Pieter Geyl was a Dutch historian best remembered for his studies in historiography and early modern Dutch history. He criticized the work of his contemporaries like Arnold J. Toynbee, with whom he also co-wrote a book titled Can We Know the Pattern of the Past? Geyl also served as a correspondent for the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
A Dutch theologian from the 17th century, Gisbertus Voetius was a Calvinist scholar. He promoted the Calvinist take on predestination, taught theology at Utrecht, and was also the youngest delegate of the Synod of Dort. Politica Ecclesiastica and Diatriba de Theologia remain two of his best-known works.
Gerard van der Leeuw was a Dutch historian, ordained minister, philosopher of religion, and politician. He is best remembered for his influential work Religion in Essence and Manifestation, which was originally published in German and later translated to English in 1938. Gerard van der Leeuw also served as a professor at the University of Groningen.
Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer was a Dutch historian and politician who worked under William II of the Netherlands, serving as his secretary. He then went on to lead the Anti-Revolutionary Party and became known as an influential political writer. Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer also played an important role in the evangelical renewal movement, which was called Réveil in the Netherlands.
Jan de Vries was a Dutch linguist, philologist, folklorist, religious studies scholar, educator, public official, writer, and editor. Jan De Vries, who specialized in Germanic studies, also studied Dutch, Pali, and Sanskrit at the University of Amsterdam. He was appointed Chair of Germanic philology at the University of Leiden where he played a key role as an administrator and lecturer.
Gerardus Vossius was a Dutch theologian and scholar. His works as a professor of rhetoric were used as textbooks in many universities. Vossius had a lasting impact on Thomas Farnaby, whose work Latin Grammar was heavily influenced by Gerardus Vossius' works.
Dutch poet Philips of Marnix is best remembered for his translation of the Psalms. He managed to anger the Roman Catholics with his works such as The Beehive of the Roman Catholic Church and thus spent a year as a prisoner. It’s believed that he wrote the Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus van Nassouwe.
A renowned 17th-century professor of biblical philology and theology, Johannes Cocceius was a prominent part of the Reformed Church. Best known for works such as Summa doctrinae de foedere et testamento Dei, he believed the relation between God and man was a covenant. He thus promoted the covenant, or federal, theology.
Simon Episcopius was a Dutch Remonstrant and theologian who played an important role at the Synod of Dort, an international Synod held by the Dutch Reformed Church in Dordrecht in 1618. A fierce supporter of the Arminian cause, Episcopius is credited with developing and systematizing the principles enunciated by Arminius.
Willem Visser 't Hooft served the World Council of Churches as its first secretary-general. The Dutch theologian and clergyman had also been the World Committee secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association. He emerged as a major figure of the ecumenical movement in the post-war era.
Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert, or Theodore Cornhert, was the man who introduced Humanism in Dutch literature. Known for works such as Liedekens, De wellevenskunste, and Comedie van Israël, he was an engraver in Haarlem and also worked for the city’s government. He also created the manifesto of William the Silent, Prince of Orange.
The Dutch Socrates, François Hemsterhuis is best remembered for his works on aesthetics and moral philosophy. One of the first Dutch authors to represent the Enlightenment, he was also one of the pioneers of Romanticism in the Netherlands. His best-known works, such as Sophyle and Alexis, were all authored in French.
Franciscus Gomarus was a Dutch theologian and Calvinist who served as a professor at the University of Leiden. He is best remembered for his disputes with his colleague Jacobus Arminius; Franciscus Gomarus led a group of people opposing Arminius' views and this group came to be known as the Gomarists.
A renowned economist, Eduard Bomhoff has not just been the deputy prime minister of the Netherlands but has also helmed the Dutch ministry of health, welfare, and sport. He has also worked for the IMF and now teaches economics at the Kuala Lumpur campus of Monash University.
Willem Bilderdijk was a Dutch poet, lawyer, historian, and linguist. He is best known for his association with Louis Bonaparte, who appointed him as the president of the Royal Institute. Willem Bilderdijk is credited with founding a spiritual movement called Het Réveil and among his students were Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer, Willem de Clercq, and Abraham Capadose.
Nicolaas Beets was a Dutch author, professor, poet, and preacher. He is credited with founding a Protestant school, which is now known by the name, Nicolaas Beetsschool. Nicolaas Beets is also remembered for his magnum opus Camera Obscura, which continues to be celebrated even today.