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Hiaerne [Hjarne], Urban

1. Dates
Born: Ingria (Sweden), 20 Dec. 1641
Died: Stockholm, 10 Mar. 1724
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 83
2. Father
Occupation: Cleric
Hiaerne's father was a Lutheran minister in Ingria. He died when Hiaerne was twelve (1653).
It is said that the family was poor and that Hiaerne had a hard childhood with seven siblings. Note however that Hiaerne is a name denoting nobility in Sweden and that Hiaerne had private tutors, at least before the death of his father. The evidence does not seem definite enough to conclude anything about the family's financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Swedish
Career: Swedish
Death: Swedish
4. Education
Schooling: Uppsala; Angers, M.D.
At the age of five Hiaerne began to have private tutors. He went to Nyen (Leningrad) for what was called trivial school, where he studied logic, rhetoric, poetry and grammar, Swedish, German, Latin, Greek, Russian, and music. In 1655 he attended the high school (gymnasium) in Dorpat but had to leave after a few months because of financial problems. He went to Arva, where he studied until 1657, at which point he decided to go to the mainland (of Sweden) to study.
He obtained a grant to attend the High School of Strangnas, one of the finest in Sweden. The Principal of the school, Gottschalk Traenus, patronised his studies.
In the fall of 1658 he left for Uppsala. In the summer of 1659 he moved to Stockholm, where he worked as a teacher. At this point he decided to go into botany, chemistry and medicine. He began his medical education at the University of Uppsala in 1661, receiving private lessons from Z. Wattrang in medicine and from Olaus Bromelius in botany. He was trained in medicine by Rudbeck and Petrus Hoffwenius. He taught himself chemistry. He completed his studies in Uppsala before 1666. I assume a B.A. or its equivalent. Having becoming personal physician to the governor-general of Livland, he was able to study abroad in Holland (where he came to know the prominent anatomist, Johannes van Horne), England, and France. Around 1669 he was in England. He took his degree in medicine at Angers in 1670. He also practiced surgery under Duverney.
During three years of study in Paris with the famous Christopher Glaser, he learned a good deal of analytical and experimental chemistry.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Iatrochemistry, Mineralogy
Subordinate: Pharmacology, Chemistry, Natural History
His contribution in applied chemistry included work on improved methods for producing alum and vitriols, and on rust preventatives. In the field of pure chemistry he worked on the problems concerning the formation of materials and the composition of bodies and ultimate particles. He is best known for his work on acid, which he produced through the distillation of ant specimens. He invented a varnish that kept wood from rotting.
Hiaerne was nevertheless a convinced Paracelsian, and his work in chemistry was directed primarily toward vindicating Paracelsianism.
He was a geologist and made an inventory of Sweden's minerals and natural resources (1702, 1706). This was his most interesting scientific accomplishment. He superintended the methods of mining and melting minerals. In 1682 he made a trip in Germany to study mines and melting-pots.
For a long period Hiaerne was Sweden's leading authority in medicine. He developed some medicines, some of which he distributed among the poor in Stockholm.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Patronage, Government
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Miscellaneous
He supported himself for a time, when he was young, by teaching.
To support his university education, Hiaerne painted portraits; he also wrote numerous poems and plays, some of which were performed.
In 1665 he became acquainted with Count Claes Tott, a military leader, at a performance of one of Hiaerne's tragedies. The literary impression, rather than his knowledge in medicine, led to his appointment as personal physician to Tott, when he went to Riga in 1666 as the governor-general of Livland. In Riga he apparently also had a private practice. In 1669 followed Tott on an embassy in Poland. Supported by Tott, he was able to go on the medical excursion through Europe: London, Paris, Angers (where he took the degree), Copenhagen.
At some point he was an army physician for about a year.
In 1674 he settled as a physician in Stockholm. His practice was very profitable; he primarily served the aristocracy.
He was appointed Assessor of the Board of Mines on 17 Oct. 1675. He was a member of the Commission Board in Stockholm that oversaw witch trials; Hiaerne was one of the most important agents in stopping the burning of witches in Sweden.
He was physician at the spa in Medevi from 1678-82.
He was appointed head of the Laboratorium Chemicum on 11 Oct. 1683, and named ordinary assessor at the Board of Mines. He became the board's vice-president in 1713.
He was appointed first physician to the King in 1684, and in 1696 he was given the title of archiater.
In 1720 he resigned from the Board of Mines and became the governor of one of the provinces of Sweden.
Hiaerne married three times and fathered no less than 26 children. He died a very wealthy man. His private library contained more than 3600 volumes, and he also owned a valuable mineral cabinet and several paintings.
8. Patronage
Types: Academic, Aristrocrat, Government Official, Court Official
He learned early how to get patrons, the first being the High School Principal, Gottschalk Traenus (whom I categorize here under Academic).
Claes Tott and Jacob Stael (or Stahl, an important military figure associated with Tott) were important in Hiaerne's career. Stael had severe back troubles, and with him Hiaerne toured German spas in 1667, examining them to see if spas could be introduced into Sweden)
He was enobled on 3 Jan. 1689.
He was appointed first physicain to the King in 1684, and was given the title of archiater.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology, Chemistry, Metallurgy
Hiaerne developed the first spas in Sweden.
He was responsible for developing several medicines, and he practiced medicine. The Laboratorium chemicum was more involved in the production of medicines than anything else.
He developed a varnish.
He was on the Board of Mines (Assessor in 1683, Vice Preses, 1713) and made a trip into Germany to observe methods.
See under Scientific Disciplines.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Medical College, 1675-1724; Royal Society, 1669-1724
He knew Borrichius in Copenhagen and Denis in Paris. See also the connections above.
He was elected to the Collegium Medicum in 1675, and became president of the Collegium in 1696-1712.
  1. Olof Strandberg, Urban Hjarnes ungdom och diktning, (Stockholm, 1942). Svensk Uppslagsbok.
  2. Ake Akerstrom, "Urban Hiärne's resa till Tyskland och Holland 1667," Lychnos: (1937), pp. 187-211. Q64.L98.
  3. Sten Lindroth, "Hiärne, Block och Paracelsus. En redogorelse för Paracelsusstriden, 1708-1709," Lychnos, (1941), pp. 191- 229. Q64.L98.
  4. Sten Lindroth, "Urban Hiärne och Laboratorium Chymicum," Lychnos, (1947), pp. 51-116. Q64.L98.
  5. Olof Strandberg, [Contributions to the Biography of Urban Hiärne]
  6. in Swedish, Lychnos, 1 (1936), 208-15.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Tore Frängsmyr, Geologi och skapelsetro. Förställningar om jordens historia frän Hiärne till Bergman, (Uppsala, 1969).
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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