Willem Einthoven was born in Semarang on Java in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), the son of Louise Marie Mathilde Caroline (de Vogel) and Jacob Einthoven. His father, a doctor, died when Willem was a child. His mother returned to the Netherlands with her children in 1870 and settled in Utrecht. His father was of Jewish and Dutch descent, and his mother's ancestry was Dutch and Swiss. In 1885, Einthoven received a medical degree from the University of Utrecht. He became a professor at the University of Leiden in 1886.
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