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Ab (Abraham) Flipse is University Historian of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

I am based in the Cultural History research group within the Faculty of Humanities, where I conduct and coordinate research on the history of universities (especially the history of the Vrije Universiteit), of science, of medicine, of science and religion, as well as teach on a variety of subjects. Having a university-wide position, I also perform functions such as public outreach and advising administrators, faculty, and students on matters dealing with the history of the Vrije Universiteit.

See also my personal page at the VU Research Portal

Read more (in Dutch) about my appointment as a university historian.

I. Research in in the field of University history
My research in university history focuses on the history of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. This university was founded in 1880 as a Calvinist University by the Dutch theologian, politician and leader of the Calvinist community in the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper. It was entirely financed by fund-raising efforts and donations. Since the 1960s, however, the Vrije Universiteit has lost its explicitly Calvinist character and it has transformed into a pluralistic, general university. Since then it has been funded by the government in the same way as the other Dutch universities. My research concentrates both on the early period and the neo-Calvinist views that underlie its foundation, and on the period of transformation (secularization) from the 1960s onwards. My publications include a monograph on the history of the Faculty of Physics with the Dutch title 'Hier leert de natuur ons zelf den weg'. Een geschiedenis van Natuurkunde en Sterrenkunde aan de VU' ['Here nature itself teaches us'. A history of Physics and Astronomy at the Vrije Universiteit] (Meinema Zoetermeer 2005), 280 pages, and an edited volume Verder kijken. Honderdvijfendertig jaar Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in de samenleving - zesentwintig portretten [Looking further. 135 years Vrije University Amsterdam in society] (VU University Press, Amsterdam 2016), 246 pages. In addition I have published a number of articles, both in Dutch and English, on aspects of the history of the Vrije Universiteit.


II. Research in the field of Science and religion

Neo-Calvinist and neo-Thomist views of science
In recent years I have also done research in the history of science and religion. My PhD project concerned the science-religion debate in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century. It focused primarily on the neo-Calvinist and the Roman-Catholic views of science. In the early twentieth century orthodox Reformed and Roman-Catholic scientists tried to build bridges between the practice of science and their faith. The growing groups of confessional scientists stood with one foot in their own philosophical-religious tradition, and the other in the world of science. Their starting points were, respectively, the neo-Calvinist and neo-Thomistic schools of thought. These schools had emerged in the late nineteenth century, partly as a reaction to the idea that faith and science were in conflict. The founder of neo-Calvinism in the Netherlands was Abraham Kuyper. The study of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas in relation to the problems of modernity had been promoted by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Aeterni Patris (1878). Ph.D. thesis: Christelijke wetenschap. Nederlandse rooms-katholieken en gereformeerden over de natuurwetenschap, 1880-1940 [Christian Science: Dutch Roman Catholics and Calvinists about the Sciences, 1880-1940] (Hilversum, Verloren, 2014). ISBN 978-90-8704-415-2, 328 pages, € 29,00. A summary is available in English. Download summary (pdf).

Evolution and creationism in the Netherlands
I have also studied the creationism/evolution debate in the Netherlands. In 2012 I published an extensive article in the journal Church History that deals with the history of the twentieth-century creation-evolution debate and the rise of young-earth creationism in the Netherlands.


III. Life and work of the biologist Jan Lever (1922-2010)

Jan Lever was professor of biology at the Vrije Universiteit from 1952 onwards. He specialized in  endocrinology and evolutionary biology and published widely on the theme of creation and evolution. His ideas on evolution may be characterized as a form of theistic evolution.


Selection of Publications in English
Three of my English-language articles give an impression of my recent work:

In the menus Publicaties and Presentaties my publications (scholarly) and presentations (at national and international conferences) are listed. Popular articles, published in newspapers, magazines and on the internet, are to be found in the menu Columns /Opinies.