Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Snel, Willebrord

  • Jordan D. MarchéII
Reference work entry

Alternate Names

 Snellius;  Snell, Willebrord

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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Selected References

  1. Hecht, Eugene and Alfred Zajac (1974). Optics. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  2. Herzberger, Max (1966). “Optics from Euclid to Huygens.” Applied Optics 5: 1383–1393.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Struik, Dirk J. (1975). “Snel (Snellius or Snel van Royen), Willebrord.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 12, pp. 499–502. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan D. MarchéII
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA