Simon Stevin (1548-1620), the Flemish mathematician and engineer, was born in Bruges and initiated the science of hydrostatics by demonstrating that the pressure exerted by a liquid upon a given surface depends on the height of the liquid and the area of the surface.

While quartermaster in the army, Stevin invented a way of flooding the lowlands in the path of invading forces by opening selected sluices in dikes. This strategy was actually put into practise several centuries later during World War I to halt the advance of German forces.

He also translated various mathematical terms into Dutch, making it one of the few European languages in which the word for mathematics, wiskunde (literally: "the art of what is certain"), was not derived from Greek (via Latin).

The author of 11 books, he contributed significantly to the sciences of trigonometry, geography, fortification, and navigation and devised and urged the universal use of decimal fractions and decimal systems of coins, weights, and measures.