The Galileo Project
site map

Bartholin, Thomas

1. Dates
Born: Copenhagen, 20 Oct. 1616
Died: Copenhagen, 4 Dec. 1680
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 64
2. Father
Occupation: Physician, Academic
Caspar Bartholin, physician, Professor of eloquentia, medicine, and theology at University of Copenhagen.
The father died when Thomas B. was 13. Since he was a physician, I assume he was affluent. All the evidence about him indicates as much.
3. Nationality
Birth: Copenhagen, Denmark
Career: Denmark
Death: Copenhagen, Denmark
4. Education
Schooling: Copenhagen, Leiden, Padua, Basel, MD
Studied at the University of Copenhagen,1634-37; at Leiden, 1637-40. Also studied medicine at Padua (1641-3, 1644-5). I certainly assume a B.A. or equivalent in all that.
M.D., 1646 at Basel.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Physiology, Anatomy, Medicine
Subordinate: Pharmacology
Many works on anatomy, physiology and medicine, from 1645 through 1674. In 1658 a general work on pharmacology.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia
Secondary: Patronage, Medicine
Throughout his life, Bartholin, who did not want a large practice, carried on a small one, largely with friends and relatives.
Mathematical faculty of the University of Copenhagen, 1647-49.
Anatomy professor of Copenhagen, 1649-61. As secundus medicus at the university, he received some of his salary from church thithes. He was, in addition entitled to wood from the university's forests, and feed for his animals, fish, and pigs.
Named professor honorarius, 1661, by a royal decree. There is mention of a pension, but uncertainty as to whether it was ever paid.
Brought the estate of Hagestedgaard, 1663.
In 1666, he received a royal letter stating that he would receive an honorary gift of 4000 Rigsdaler in recognition of his diligence and service. This was paid with landholding.
After fire destroyed his estate in 1670, King Christian V named Bartholin as his personal physician, with an annual salary of 600 Rdl, although Bartolin rarely had to treat the king.
In 1671 he was named university librarian, with a salary of 120 Rdl. and a pension of 2000 Rdl.
8. Patronage
Type: Court
Ole Worm gave Bartholin his initial appointment at the Univ. of Copenhagen. Since Worm was a relation (husband of B's aunt), I won't call this patronage.
Above are instances of patronage from the court.
King Frederik III, who was interested in anatomy, attended Bartholin's demonstrations and commissioned him in 1654 to write Augusta anatome (which was never published).
Shortly before Frederik III died (Feb. 1670), he named Bartholin as archiater honorarius as a reward for his services. There is no mention of a salary.
After Bartholin's estate burned in 1670, Christian V made it tax-free for three years.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
In 1654, along with the rest of the medical faculty at the university, Bartholin published advice to the people on how to take care of themselves during the plague.
In 1673 he held the first exams for midwives in Denmark.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: no formal ones
I am fascinated with the hints in his biography of a tight academic circle of related men in Denmark. Bartholin's father was a professor at the University of Copenhagen. His mother's father, Thomas Fincke, was a professor at the university, as was his aunt's husband, Ole Worm. Erasmus B. was his brother. Thomas's son Caspar, who was also an anatomist of importance, would follow at the university. Peder Soerenson, who is in the DSB as Severinus, and apparently held a chair at the university, also belongs in this circle; he was the husband of Fincke's cousin Drude Thorsmede, the daughter of the brother of Fincke's mother. Add to the circle Christian Soerensen (or Severin, known as Longomontanus) who was also related.
Sometime between 1641 and 43, he was made a member of the learned society of Venice, Accademia de' signori incogniti.
He maintained a lasting friendship with Marco Aurelio Severino, and a prolific correspondence with many scientists throughout Europe--among others, Pierre Bourdelet (France), Hermann Conring (Germany), Guy Patin (Paris), Johannes Scheffer (Uppsala), Niels Stensen (Denmark), Sktanislau Lubienitzsky (Poland). Letters are published in Epistolae medicinales (1663-7).
Responsible for the royal decree of 1672 that decided the organization of Danish medicine for the next hundred years.
  1. Axel Garboe, Thomas Bartholin et bidrag til dansk natur-og laegevidenskabs historie i det 17. aarhundrede, 2 vols, (Copenhagen, 1949-50). QM16 .B26G Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, 2. 476-9.
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
Last updated
Home | Galileo | Biography | Chronology | Family | Portraits |
Science | Christianity | Library | About | Site Map | Search

Please note: We will not answer copyright requests.
See the copyright page for more information.