Leiden’s Love Affair With Poems And Equations

Dec 7, 2017 0 comments

Scattered throughout the city of Leiden, in The Netherlands, are over one hundred poems carefully hand-painted on the exterior walls of buildings. These include the works of Rimbaud, Shakespeare, W. B. Yeats, Marina Tsvetaeva, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott as well as local writers. Most of them are in Dutch and English. A couple of them are in Turkish, Moroccan, Chinese, Surinam, and other languages.

The Wall Poems project started in 1992 and was funded partly by the private Tegen-Beeld foundation of Ben Walenkamp and Jan-Willem Bruins, with additional funding coming from several corporations and the city of Leiden. The first poem was from the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva. The project officially concluded in 2005 with the Spanish poem De profundis by Federico Garcia Lorca, but new poems continued to be added as recently as 2010.


A wall poem in Leiden, the Netherlands. Photo credit: Bic/Wikimedia

The city of Leiden has a special relationship with poetry. Historically, Leiden has been home to a remarkable number of writers. Numerous authors such as Piet Paaltjens, J.C. Bloem, Maarten Biesheuvel, Jan Wolkers and Maarten 't Hart, lived or studied here. Leiden’s famous university has traditionally attracted many scholars and scientists from all over the world. Many leading discoveries in the field of physics have been made at the University of Leiden such as the Snells law by Willebrord Snellius, and the Leyden jar invented by Pieter van Musschenbroek. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes liquefied helium for the first time here in Leiden and later managed to reach a temperature of less than one degree above the absolute minimum. Albert Einstein also spent some time at Leiden University during his early years. The city of Leiden boasts of thirteen Nobel Prize winners.

Inspired by this rich scientific heritage as well as the Wall Poems project, two physicists—Sense Jan van der Molen and Ivo van Fountain—began painting mathematical and physical formulas on house walls. The project, which started in 2015, is at a nascent stage, and so far only six walls have been painted. The project is supported by the municipality of Leiden.

Related: The Comic Book Route in Brussels


Photo credit: David Eppstein/Wikimedia


Photo credit: Craig Booth/Flickr


Photo credit: Alessandro Grussu/Flickr


Photo credit: FaceMePLS/Flickr


Photo credit: FaceMePLS/Flickr


Photo credit: Craig Booth/Flickr


Formula for Lorentz force. Photo credit: Vysotsky/Wikimedia


Formula for Lorentz length contraction. Photo credit: Vysotsky/Wikimedia


Einstein field equations. Photo credit: Vysotsky/Wikimedia


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