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Piso, Willem

1. Dates
Born: Leiden, 1611
Died: Amsterdam, Nov. 1678
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 67
2. Father
Occupation: Musician
Hermannus Piso van Cleef, organist in a church in Leiden.
No indication of his financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Dutch
Career: Dutch (including the Dutch colony in Brasil)
Death: Dutch
4. Education
Schooling: Leiden; Caen, M.D.
Matriculated at Leiden in 1623 at the age of twelve. I assume a B.A. or its equivalent.
M.D. at Caen in 1633.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist assumed.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Pharmacology, Natural History
From his period in Brasil came the Historia naturalis Brasiliae (of which four of twelve books were by Piso and eight by Markgraf), a compendium of tropical medicine, pharmacology (including the introduction of a Brasilian root into European use), and natural history.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Patronage
After his degree in 1633, he established a practice in Amsterdam, until 1637.
In 1637 sent by the Dutch West Indian Company to be the physician to Johan Maurits of Nassau, the governor of the colony in Brasil, and physician to the colony. Johan Maurits had gone out the year before to establish an organized government in what had been merely a military post; the original physician had died almost as soon as he arrived in Brasil. In some sense that is not clear, Piso remained in the service of Johan Maurits for a short time after they returned to the Netherlands in 1644.
By 1648 Piso had settled in Amsterdam, and there he maintained a practice.
8. Patronage
Type: Aristrocrat
Johan Maurits, beyond the relation indicated above, sponsored and financed the Historia naturalis brasiliae.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Medical College
Amsterdam Collegium Medicum, of which Piso was decanus in 1656-60 and 1670.
  1. Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek.
  2. G.A. Lindeboom, Dutch Medical Biography, (Amsterdam, 1984), p. 1535.
  3. M.A. van Andel, introduction to "Capita nonnula de ventris fluxibus, de dysentaria, de lue indica, de ipecacuanha," in Opuscula selecta neerlandicorum de arte medica, XIV, (Amsterdam 1937), xii-xxxviii. This introduction, which has an English translation on facing pages, is said to be the best study of Piso.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. M.A. van Andel, "Willem Piso, een baanbreker de tropischegenees- kunde," Bijdragen tot de geshiedenis der geneeskunde, 14 (1924), 239-54.
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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