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Coiter, Volcher

1. Dates
Born: Groningen, 1534
Died: France, 1576
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 42
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat, Lawyer
From a patrician family; his father was a jurist.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Netherlands
Career: Italy, Germany
Death: France
4. Education
Schooling: Padua, Rome, Bologna, M.D.
He had an excellent education in his native city, Groningen, at St. Martin School.
In 1555 the city fathers reward him a stipend for five years of study at foreign universities. (This was only a small stipend--more pocket money than serious cash.) He may have studied with Leonhard Fuchs at Tübingen, but this seems very dubious. In 1556 he was briefly at Montpellier (which I am not listing). Gabriele Falloppio taught him at Padua, and Bartolomeo Eustachi at Rome. By 1560, he was at Bologna, where he received M.D. in 1562 and where his researches were guided by Ulisse Aldrovandi and Giulio Cesare Aranzio. I assume a B.A. or its equivalent.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Calvinist
In 1566 Coiter was arrested and imprisoned for his Protestantism and his offense to the Inquisition. As I look at the dates, he must have converted from an original Catholicism.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Anatomy, Embryology
Subordinate: Medicine, Physiology
Coiter was the first to raise comparative anatomy to independent status in biology. His research covered almost the entire vertebrate series.
His studies on the development of the chick were epochal. Based on observations made on 20 successive days, they presented the first systematic statement since the three- period description provided by Aristotle.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Patronage, Government
Secondary: Academia
1562-6, lectured on logic and surgery at Bologna. Sometime during this period he lectured in Perugia for a year.
1566-9, served Pfalzgraf Ludwig VI at Amberg and taught there.
1569-76, physician to the city of Nürnberg. His contract (published in Herrlinger) specifies an annual salary. If I understand the old German of the contract, he was permitted to practice as well with patients who were not citizens of Nürnberg. It seems clear that Joachim Camerarius, whom Coiter had known as a student in Italy, engineered this appointment.
Late in 1575 Pfalzgraf Ludwig appointed Coiter physician to his army for an expedition into France, the expedition on which Coiter died.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Physician, City Magistrate
The stipend awarded in 1555 by Groningen for five years of study at foreign universities was pocket money and not worth inclusion here.
He served Pfalzgraf Ludwig VI as personal physician at Amberg from 1566 to 1569. And in 1575-6 he attended him (or perhaps Johann Casimir) on the expedition into France.
Joachim Camerarius was apparently responsible for Coiter's appointment in Nürnberg.
Coiter dedicated his work of 1572 to the senate of Nürnberg.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He associated with Camerarius, Georg Palm, Heinrich Wolff, Melchior Ayrer, Franz Renner and Thomas Esastus when he was at Nürnberg. From this group came the Nürnberg College of Medicine after Coiter's death.
  1. Robert Herrlinger, Volcher Coiter, 1534-1576, (Nuremberg, 1952).
  2. Dorothy M. Schullian, "New Documents on Volcher Coiter" Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciencec, 6 (1951), 176- 94.
  3. B.W.Th. Nuijens,"Doctor Volcher Coiter, 1534-1576", Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde, 77 (1933), pp. 5383-401.
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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