In 2022 it will be a century ago that the ‘founding father’ of biology at the VU, Jan Lever (1922-2010) was born. Attention will be given to this in the autumn of 2022 through a symposium and publication (organized by VU historian Ab Flipse) and an exhibition (organized by VU heritage curator Liselotte Neervoort). In that context, it is also appropriate to take stock of the history of snail research at the VU. More so because the snail culture (Molluscarium), in which the species that Jan Lever also researched (the great pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis) is still being cultivated, will soon move to a new location on the VU campus. With this move we say goodbye to the historic snail breeding facility that has been housed in the basement of the Mathematics & Physics building since the 1960s. Much of the equipment, largely manufactured by the faculty workshop, will also be replaced. To highlight this, we want to provide a historical overview of this research that started with the choice of Jan Lever. What was the reason, the design, the type of research; what were the leading scientists and the breakthroughs? This can be done through research into (old) scientific publications, archives and interviews (oral history). This overview can also include how the research fitted into the broader field of biology and all the changes that have taken place in it since the 1950s, the fanning out of pond snail research around the world, the future of research on this species, etc. With this overview we aim to provide an entertaining perspective on this piece of living history of the VU.

More information about Jan Lever:

Supervision and information

Joris Koene, Associate Professor of Biology

Ab Flipse, University Historian VU

Liselotte Neervoort, curator of heritage UBVU


Image source: Fodor, I., Hussein A.A.A., Benjamin, P.R., Koene, J.M. & Pirger, Z. 2020. The unlimited potential of the great pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis. eLife 9: e56962