BornLeiden, (the Netherlands), circa1580
DiedLeiden, the Netherlands, 30 October 1626
Willebrord Snel is chiefly remembered for his discovery of the law of refraction that bears his name, and for his demonstration of the first accurate measurement of an arc of the meridian. Snel’s father, Rudolph Snellius, was a professor of mathematics at the University of Leiden. There, Snel studied law but remained chiefly interested in science and mathematics. After 1600, he traveled widely in Europe and at Prague met Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Snel returned to Leiden in 1604 and began to translate and restore the mathematical works of Apollonius. In 1608, he was awarded a master’s degree; that same year, he married Maria de Lange. The couple had 18 children, only three of whom survived to adulthood.
After his father died in 1613, Snel assumed his position at the University of Leiden as teacher and professor of mathematics. He then applied the...
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