Cornelis Van Drebbel, a Dutch philosopher and inventor, born in Alkmaar in 1572. died in London in 1634. Of his life little is known; but his inventive genius appears to have given him a wide reputation, for it is certain that when about 30 years of age he was in receipt of a pension from the emperor Rudolph II.. granted him for scientific discoveries. He was also taken into favor by the future emperor Ferdinand II., and made tutor to his son. Seditious movements about the beginning of the thirty years' war led to his arrest; and he would have been executed but for the intercession of King James I. of England, who took him under his protection. He lived in London from 1620, devoted entirely to scientific labors. He invented several philosophical instruments, among which, it is said, were the compound microscope and a thermometer consisting of a glass tube containing water connected with a bulb containing air. His contemporaries say that he displayed to King James a glass globe in which by means of the four elements he had produced perpetual motion, and that by means of machinery he imitated rain, thunder, lightning, and cold and was able quickly to exhaust a river or lake.
He discovered a bright scarlet dye for woollens and silks, which was introduced into France by the founders of the Gobelins manufactures.
Drebbel left two treatises, which appeared first in Dutch (Leyden, 1608); afterward in Latin, under the title Tractatus duo: Be Na-tura Elementorum; Be Quinta Essentia (Hamburg, 1621); and in French (Paris, 1673).