20 Gerard Noodt (En)

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Regents and monarchs
Gerard Noodt is one of the most famous men in the history of Nijmegen. The internationally acclaimed lawyer advocated freedom of conscience for everyone. In those days this was a very modern and radical position to adopt.

Gerard Noodt was born the son of a prominent family in 1647 on the corner of Grotestraat and Grote Markt. After completing Latin school, he studied philosophy and maths for two and a half years at the newly established University of Nijmegen. Noodt transferred to law school as it offered better social opportunities. He followed Petrus de Greve’s lectures at the Nijmegen Faculty of Law, but in 1668 he spent some time in Leiden, Utrecht and Franeker. He received his PhD at Franeker University. In 1669 Gerard Noodt returned to his birthplace where he started practicing as a lawyer. His legal skills were so good that he was appointed Professor of Law and in 1671 at the age of 24 he became a colleague of De Greve. This did not last for long as French troops attacked Nijmegen and any form of education became impossible. Noodt continued with his legal work.

Due to lack of finances after the French left, Nijmegen University ceased to exist. Noodt left the city in 1679 to become a professor at Franeker University. In 1684 he went to Utrecht and in 1686 he went to Leiden were he continued teaching until his death in 1725.

When Gerard Noodt arrived in Leiden he was already an internationally renowned scholar and a widely appreciated specialist on Roman law. He was even more successful in defending natural law and the fundamentals of tolerance. His works were in Latin, which was normal in those days, but thanks to translation into French they were read throughout literate Europe. An example of this is his speech as Rector of Leiden University in 1699. He explained the legal basis of the governmental system of the Republic. Such a republican form of government was quite unusual in Europe. In this paper he also defended the theory that the government derives its power from the people. His speech of 1706 on freedom of religion and tolerance based on natural law and international law made him even more renowned.
A Nijmegen scholar
Gerard Noodt

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Source: Hans Bots, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)