To give a complete picture of the history of Gezelschap Leeghwater, we need to go back to 25 years before the founding of Leeghwater. In January 1842 the Koninklijke Academie was founded, where Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry were taught in a building at Oude Delft 95. Civil engineer Adrien Huet, together with the name change of the Koninklijke Academie to Polytechnische School in 1863, started the history of Gezelschap Leeghwater.

Adrien Huet

Huet encouraged the Mechanical Engineering students to start a study association. The constituent assembly was held 16 December 1867. Huet, because of his Civil Engineering background, had a love for polder drainage. Because of this the association got the name ‘Leeghwater’. Jan Adriaenszoon Leeghwater, originally a carpenter and mill maker, was born in 1575 in De Rijp and died in 1650 in Amsterdam. He worked on several land reclamation projects like the Beemster, the Purmer, the Wormer and the Heerhugowaard. He also wrote a lot of plans which later led to land reclamation in many other polders.

In the beginning

The first gatherings of Gezelschap Leeghwater happened in a room at the back of Markt 9, at the time Hotel Lubrechts, where lectures and presentations were given and discussions were held about diverse technical topics. On October 1st 1889, when the association was already prosperous and had its own board, Leeghwater obtained their legal personality. On July the 5th 1899 Huet, at the time the honorary chairman and professor, passed away due to a stroke.

When in 1905 the Polytschnische School was renamed Technische Hoogeschool, the programs of  Mechanical Engineering, Maritime Engineering and Electrical Engineering were merged together. During that time Leeghwater also made connections with the Koninklijke Insituut voor Ingenieurs (KIVI) and devoted itself to politics. For example, in 1922 the government wanted shortening of study duration and curtailment of study freedom. Gezelschap Leeghwater undertook action against these proposals with success.

Into battle

After the quiet thirties and two years after the celebration of the 14th lustrum the Second World War started. When the Technische Hogeschool (TH) was closed for an unknown time by the occupiers, Leeghwater took action. The board of Gezelschap Leeghwater wrote to the Dutch industry telling them the association had taken over the job of the TH, since it was forbidden for the TH to do any ‘practical work’. Leeghwater asked companies to facilitate work opportunities for their students, knowing that as long as the students worked they were safe. The response the Dutch industry was enormous. For weeks everyday numerous enthusiastic reactions arrived at the office of Leeghwater, located at the Oude Delft 47. In a very short period of time hundreds of students were placed at different companies all around the Netherlands. A lot of these students were able to resume their study when the TH was reopened on April 16th 1941.

In 1955 Mechanical Engineering moved to the Mekelweg 2. The 100th anniversary of Gezelschap Leeghwater is celebrated exuberantly with the theme: Everything in the hundred. During this lustrum a metal elephant, which for years stood at the entrance of the faculty, was given to Gezelschap Leeghwater by the chairman of the department Mechanical Engineering, professor G. Prins. During the seventies big changes were made regarding education and democratization. Gezelschap Leeghwater also underwent several changes. The advocacy of students was expanded and improved. In 1986 the Technische Hogeschool was renamed to Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) as we know it nowadays.

Recent history

In 1992 Vereniging Oud Leeghwater (VOL) was founded. VOL is the alumni association of Gezelschap Leeghwater and the faculty of Mechanical Engineering. All the graduates of Mechanical Engineering could become members of this association, so they could stay up to date with everyday happenings at the faculty and Gezelschap Leeghwater. Since 1996 Leeghwater also has her own magazine, de Slurf. This magazine is full of information, scientific articles and activities. Gezelschap Leeghwater has kept her standard of activities she organises high. Some activities take place every year, like the business tour, De Delftse Bedrijvendagen, the Ontwerpwedstrijd and the Campusrun. Twice in the five years there is an intercontinental Grand Tour and every lustrum there is a symposium.