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Muralt, Johannes von

1. Dates
Born: Zürich, 16 Feb 1645
Died: Zürich, 12 Jan 1733
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 88
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
He was the member of the old noble de Muralto family, which had been driven from its seat in Locarno in 1555 upon its conversion to Protestantism. The family eventually settled in Bern and Zürich and found new prosperity. Some of Muralt's ancestors were physicians and diplomats. His father Johann Melchior von Muralt (1614-1686) was a successful merchant.
I take that to mean at least affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: Zürich, Switzerland
Career: Zürich, Switzerland
Death: Zürich, Switzerland
4. Education
Schooling: Basel, M.D.; Leiden
He was educated at the Zürich Latin school, the Collegium humanitatis and the Collegium Carolinum.
1665-7, studied medicine at the University of Basel. He matriculated in 1665. In 1666, he studied medicine under Johann Caspar Bauhin (1606-85), son of Caspar Bauhin. In 1667, he defended a Consultatio medica de angina. I do not know whether this indicates he received a B.A., but it is likely.
1667, he matriculated at the University of Leiden, where he also defended a dissertation. Franciscus de le Boë Sylvius suggested that Muralt take his doctorate, but Muralt had promised to Bauhin to return and take his doctorate at Basel.
1688, he was in London. He had some contact with the Royal Society. His fellow student at Leiden, Henry Sampson (M.D., 1668), travelled with him to London and provided him with letters of introduction, etc. He also spent a short time at Oxford in 1669.
1669-70, studying surgery in Paris. He had connections and lodging through the anatomist Louis Gayant (d. 1673), founding member of the Académie des Sciences, and Prévôt of the college of surgeons, St. Côme, and "surgeon of the King's armies." He had contact with the midwife François Mauriceau (1637-1709), and the physician and anatomist Jean Pecquet (1622-74).
1671, in Lyon, where he visited Charles Spon (1609-1684) and Noel Falconet (1644-1734).
1671, received his M.D. in medicine and surgery at the University of Basel. This was an unusual degree for the time, and Muralt took some pride in it.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist (assumed; he was certainly Protestant)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Anatomy, Surgery
Subordinate: Physiology, Zoo.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Government
Secondary: Schoolmastering
1672, he settled in Zürich, married, and began to practice medicine and surgery. The Zürich surgeons guild challenged his right to practice in the city. However, his success as a physician overcame their opposition. He was eventually made an honorary member of the surgeons guild. He lectured and did public dissections at the surgeons' guildhall.
1688, he was named archiater. His duties included devising sanitary measures to guard against disease, advising the marriage court, inspecting apothecaries, supervising the training of midwives, and treating internal disorders at the city hospital. As I understand it, the position of archiater was distinct from that of Stadtarzt.
1691, he was appointed professor mathematics at the cathedral school and also became canon of its chapter.
8. Patronage
Types: Scientist, Unknown
From his student days (see section 4), Bauhin, Slyvius and Sampson might be called patrons. Muralt explicitly named Gayant his patron, and his Exercitatio anatomica de experimentis novissime factis a Ionne Muralto, Tigurno (1670) is dedicated to Gayant, Pecquet, and Mauriceau.
While in London, he was offered the position of personal physician to William Godolphin, ambassador to Portugal, but his parents dissuaded him from accepting.
1692, he was offered a chair at the University of Franeker by the Prince of Nassau, "Erz-Statthalter der Provinzen von Friesland und Grüning," but Muralt turned it down.
Meanwhile, in view of the way things went in that age, someone had to have stood behind his appointment as archiater.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
He practiced medicine quite successfully, applying the knowledge he learned from anatomical dissections. He developed new surgical procedures and set them forth systematically in his writings. He is also responsible for founding anatomical teaching in Zürich.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Academia Leopoldina
1681, member of the Academia Caesario-Leopoldina Natura Curiosorum, with the name "Aretaeus."
  1. August Hirsch, Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 23, 53-4.
  2. A. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Aerzte aller Zeiten und Voelker (3rd ed., Munich, 1962), 4, 302-3.
  3. Urs Boschung, Johannes von Muralt (1645-1733): Arzt, Chirurg, Anatom, Naturforscher, Philosoph (Schriften zur Züricher Universitäts- und Gelehrtengeschichte, 5) (Zürich: Hans Rohr, 1983) [R566.M8 J63 1983] Not consulted: Berhard Peyer, Die biologischen Arbeiten des Arztes Johannes von Muralt (1645-1733) (Thayngen: Karl Augustin, 1946). [R566.M8 P4]
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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