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Witt, Jan de

1. Dates
Born: Dordrecht, 25 Sept 1625
Died: The Hague, 20 August 1672
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 47
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant, Governmental Official
De Witt came from a patrician family of Dordrecht which moved in the 16th centurky from commerce into governmental administration. De Witt's father was a younger son who initially operated the family lumber business. But he held governmental positions, one of which is described as lucrative. Rowen speaks of his transformation from a merchant capitalist into a regent.
In describing the family's finanical position, Rowen speaks of solid prosperity but not dazzling wealth.
3. Nationality
Birth: Dutch
Career: Dutch
Death: Dutch
4. Education
Schooling: Leiden; Angers, LD
De Witt attended Beeckman's school in Dordrecht.
He matriculated in Leiden in 1641 to study law. There is no mention of a degree, but in light of the rest I will assume a B.A. or its equivalent.
He went on the grand tour (or France). At the University of Angers (a Protestant university) he received a doctorate of law in 1645.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist
His father was treasurer of the Synod of Dort.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means, Government, City Magistrate
De Witt had an inheritance of 10,000 guilders from his mother and a dowry of 50,000 with his wife. Not long after the marriage, his wife further inherited 110,000 from her mother. By the time of his death de Witt had built a considerable fortune by prudent management; Rowen estimates it as roughly the equivalent of $2 million in our pre- inflation money--or $4 or $5 million in current terms.
De Witt became Pensionary of Dordrecht (a governmental official) in 1650. In 1653 he became Councillor Pensionary of the province of Holland, the chief official of the province. The position carried initially a salary of 3,000 guilders, a figure later increased to 6,000. In additon De Witt became Keeper of the Seal in 1661--a salary of 4,000.
8. Patronage
Type: None
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Applied Mathematics
De Witt composed The Worth of Life Annuities Compared to Redemption Bonds, a practical work that applied the principles of probability to issues of state finance.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. H.H. Rowen, John de Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland, 1625-1672, (Princeton, 1678).
  2. Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
Last updated
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