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Bartholin, Erasmus

1. Dates
Born: Roskide, Denmark, 13 Aug. 1625
Died: Copenhagen, 4 Nov. 1698
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 73
2. Father
Occupation: Physician, Academic
Caspar Bartholin, Physician, Academic. He died when Erasmus was four.
No clear information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Roskide, Denmark
Career: Denmark
Death: Copenhagen, Denmark
4. Education
Schooling: Copenhagen, B.A. and M.A.; Leiden; Padua, M.D.
Taught initially by private teachers, then attented Latin school.
1642-4: Univ. of Copenhagen, B.A. in 1644. M.A. in 1647.
Studied math. at the University of Leiden for several years beginning in 1645.
1651: studied mathematics in France and Italy, ultimately at Padua where he was Consiliarius for the German Nation and Vice-syndicus for the university.
M.D., 1654 at Padua.
1654-6: travelled and studied in Italy.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Optics
Subordinate: Medicine, Astronomy
Major contribution to science was his study of Icelandic spar.
Writings in pure math. were fairly numerous but not of great importance.
Wrote a little on medicine.
Observed the comets of 1665 and other astronomical objects, and published about this topic.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Patronage, Government
Professor of mathematics at Copenhagen, 1657.
Extraordinary chair of medicine, 1657.
Royal Mathematician, 1667.
Ordinary chair of medicine, 1671.
Teacher to Prince Joergen, 1671.
Dean of the faculty of medicine.
Rector in three different years.
Royal physician.
Privy concilor, Advisor to the chancellor, then minister of justice.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
He was supported and directed by Frederick III of Denmark to prepare for publication of collected manuscript observations of Tycho Brahe.
In addition, all of the connections to the court, and the various appointments above.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
As a physician, he introduced quinine in the fight against malaria.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He worked with Ole Roemer on Tycho's manuscripts.
He worked with Niels Stensen on crystallography.
  1. Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, (Copenhagen, 1979), 1, 475-6.
  2. V. Ingerslev, Dansk Laeger og Laegevaesen, (Copenhagen, 1873-4), pp. 586-9.
  3. Not consulted: Axel Garboe, "Nicolaus Steno & Erasmus Bartholin" in Danmarks geologiske undersogelse, 4th ser., 3, no. 9 (1954), pp.38-48 QE278 A4 Ser.3 V. Maar, Den forste anvendelse of kinsbark i Danmark, (Leiden, 1925). Kirstine Meyer, Erasmus Bartholin, et Tidsbillede, (Copenhagen, 1933). Jed Z. Buchwald and Kurt Moeller Pedersen, "Introduction," in Erasmus Bartholin, Experiments on Bifrefringent Icelandic Crystal, trans. Thomas Archibald, (Copenhagen, 1991).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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