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Boerhaave, Hermann

1. Dates
Born: Voorhut, Netherlands 31 Dec 1668
Died: Leiden, Netherlands 23 Sep 1738
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 70
2. Father
Occupation: A Minister
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Dutch
Career: Dutch
Death: Dutch
4. Education
Schooling: Leiden
Secondary: 3 years in grammar school in Leiden.
University: University of Leiden.
1684, matriculated Leiden in theology & philosophy.
1690, "degree in philosophy", continued to study theology, began to study medicine.
Self-taught in medicine: went to dissections but attended no other medical lectures.
1693, took a medical degree at the academy of Harderwijk.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Reformed--i.e, Calvinist
Pious, son of minister, studied theology.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Chemistry, Medicine
Subordinate: Botany
Boerhaave was especially significant in teaching and systematizing medicine.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academic, Medical Practice, Schoolmaster
Secondary: Personal Means (From Wife)
1687, won a scholarship at University.
1690, scholarship ran out; supported himself in University by teaching mathematics.
1693, settled in Leiden, had small medical practice, and gave lessons in mathematics.
1701, was appointed (Univ. of Leiden) a lecturer in medicine (Lector Institutionum Medicarum); appointed for 3 years, served for 9 years; salary 400 guilders per year; pay was sometimes in arrears, but University personnel were exempted from taxes on wine and beer.
He also gave private medical and chemical lectures; paid for by his students (in 1725 each student paid 30 guilders per annum).
1703, declined a professorship at Groningen (governors of U Leiden promised him the next vacant chair, increased his salary to 600 g).
By 1709 busy medical practice.
1709, appointed ordinaris Professor Medicinae et Botanices (included supervising U botanical garden); salary 1000 guilders + 300 guilders for botanical correspondence and exchange (gradually increased); given an official residence (a spacious dwelling of several storeys).
1710, married the only daughter of the rich merchant, Alderman Abraham Drolenvaux.
Feb 1714 - Feb 1715, vice-chancellor of university (Rector Magnificus).
Summer 1714, appointed professor of clinical medicine.
1718, appointed Ordinarius Professor Chymiae"; salary 200 guilders, but probably entailed a decrease in income because students paid no fees for professors' lectures.
1718-28, held these 3 chairs.
1725, salary 2,200 guilders.
1729, before resigning, salary was Fl. 2,100.
28 April 1729, resigned professorships of botany and chemistry (salary reduced by 400 guilders); continued to teach Institutes, practical medicine, and clinical medicine until 1738; remained at residence and supervised his successor for one year.
1730, left official residence; salary increased by 400 guilders; his new house cost 16,000 guilders.
1730-1, Rector Magnificus.
Boerhaave's wealth was all self made (excluding his wife's inheritance). He exhausted his patrimony before finishing school.
Lindeboom estimates that the total income from his private lectures must have been 4 or 5 times his salary as a professor.
Lindeboom estimates that on Boerhaave's death his estate was 200,000 guilders, with his wife having an equal estate.
Boerhaave's medical practice became very lucrative. He was turning away rich and famous clients. His servant charged a guilder for admittance to his office. He once charged 30 guilders for a consultation by mail. (See Lindeboom 228-31 for a summary of Boerhaave's wealth and its sources.)
8. Patronage
Types: Magistrate (University Officials), Court
1687, divinity professor Jacobus Trigland and his friend, the Burgomaster and University Curator Daniel van Alphen Simonszoon, had befriended Boerhaave and may have helped him get the scholarship.
Through teaching math, Boerhaave met Jan van den Berg, Secretary to the University Curators, who got them to make him supervisor of some improvements to the university library building and supervisor of the Vossius collection.
1701, owed his lectureship to van den Berg (and van Alphen).
1703, Jan van den Berg was first *burgomaster of Leiden.
1710, dedicated 2nd edition of his Institutes to his father- in-law.
Throughout his life, Boerhaave turned down several invitations from monarchs -- he thought he would be tempted to compromise himself at a court: "Exeat aula, qui vult esse pius."
1730, despite being told he could name his conditions, Boerhaave declined offer from Czarina of Russia to be her court physician (I do not list similar offers, if refused, as patronage).
Royalty and members of the nobility sought his advice. Although it is difficult to separate this from practice, I do list this as patronage, by analogy with personal physicians.
Boerhaave had a hand in selecting his successors for his various chairs. "He tried to use his connexion with [Paris Academy] in order to help others" (see Lindeboom, 169 for details), In 1735 he helped Linnaeus get a patronage post.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Medical College, Académie Royal des Sciences, Royal Society
Informal: helped several young men (including Linnaeus) in their careers; extensive correspondence; was one of the leading scientists of his time.
Formal: published in the Philosophical Transactions.
1714-death: chairman of Surgeon's Guild at Leiden.
1715, elected corresponding member of Académie Royale des Sciences of Paris.
1728, elected foreign member of Paris Academie.
1730, unanimously elected Fellow of Royal Society.
  1. G. A. Lindeboom, in DSB, 2, 224-8.
  2. G. A. Lindeboom, Herman Boerhaave: The Man and His Work (London, 1968) -- Stacks R 529 . B6 L7 -- all you ever wanted to know and then some.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. W. Burton], An Account of the Life and Writings of Herman Boerhaave, (London, 1743). -- Lilly R 529 . B6 B97 Lester S. King, The Medial World of the Eighteenth Century, (Chicago, 1958), chapters 3 and 4.
  2. Lester S. King, The Growth of Medical Thought, (Chicago, 1963), 177 - 185.
  3. M. Maty, Essai sur le caractere du grand medicin au Eloge de Mr.
  4. Herman Boerhaave, (Cologne, 1747).
  5. D. Schoute, et al., Memorialia Hermanni Boerhaave, (Haarlem, 1939) -- lectures from 1938 international Boerhaave commemoration.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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