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Rudbeck, Olof

1. Dates
Born: Vasteras (Sweden), 1630
Died: Sweden, 17 Sep, 1702
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 72
2. Father
Occupation: Academic, Cleric
Johannes Rudbeckius was professor of mathematics and theology at the University of Uppsala. He resigned the university chair in order to be appointed Bishop of Vasteras. He was also the founder of the first gymnasium in Sweden.
This certainly sounds affluent to me.
3. Nationality
Birth: Swedish
Career: Swedish
Death: Swedish
4. Education
Schooling: Uppsala; Leiden, M.D.
He received his early schooling in Vasteras, then in 1648, entered the University of Uppsala to study medicine. He attended the lectures of Johannes Franckenius and Olaus Stenius on botany and anatomy.
He received a grant from Queen Kristina to study abroad; he went to Leiden in 1653 where he completed his medical education and also a degree in botany before 1655. There is clearly a B.A. or its equivalent in there.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Anatomy, Physiology, Botany
He discovered the lymphatic system in 1650 and was the first to demonstrate the glands and to recognize their importance. His Nova exercitatio anatomica (1653) provided a clear and convincing description of his discoveries. In 1652 he demonstrated their function to the Queen, who gave him a grant of 800 rix-dollars to continue his studies abroad.
In 1652 he disputed the liver's part in the production of blood. He published a book on the topic, De circulatione sanguinis.
Rudbeck was a person of many talents who taught, beyond medicine, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, fortification, gunnery, and even more.
He founded the tradition of natural history at Uppsala. He established the first botanical garden there in 1654. From 1655 the garden received 150 rix-dollars a years for its maintenance. In 1658 he published his first Catalogum plantarum, with 1052 different plants; the final edition in 1685 contained 1873 plants. In 1670 he undertook his most important botanic work, an illustrated book that would describe all known plants, entitled Campus Elysius. With the help of his children and students he made 3200 woodcuts, many of which were destroyed in the great fire of 1702. The book finally appeared in two volumes in 1701 and 1702, containing 1811 different plants.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Medicine, Government
1655-60, assistant professor in the Medical Faculty of Uppsala University.
I am assuming that Rudbeck, like all professors of medicine, maintained a practice.
1660-72, professor of Medicine in Uppsala University. He later moved to the chair of Botany and Anatomy. In 1662 he was appointed head-master of the university and after a "mandatory period" governor of the university. As governor he created a new chemistry laboratory. He had to resign in 1670 because of economical problems and disagreements between colleagues.
In 1665 he was appointed "commissary of the country's culture" with a commission to spread knowledge about Sweden's natural resources and production.
He resigned his professorship in 1691.
His last assignment was to reconstruct Uppsala after the great fire of 16 May 1702.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat
Beginning with the grant from the Queen to study abroad, there was continual favor from the court.
Carl Oxenstierna and M.G. De la Gardie, both wealthy aristocrats, supported his Campus Elysii, which cost altogether about 40,000.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Civil Engineering, Military Engineering, Hydraulics
Rudbeck constructed an anatomy auditorium on top of the university building. He provided Uppsala with water pipes, constructed bridges and suspension bridges according to an invention of his own, and constructed wharves with doors that opened by themselves when a boat arrived. He also provided the streets of Uppsala with stone paving. He built several greenhouses for tropical plants in the botanical garden; they worked satisfactorally.
He taught fortification. In light of all that activity in construction, I am listing military engineering.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Priority dispute with Thomas Bartholin, 1654-1657.
  1. Gunnar Eriksson, Botanikens historia i Sverige intill ar 1800, (Uppsala, 1969), pp. 71-6, 135-8, and the bibliography.
  2. Svensk Uppslagsbok.
  3. Not consulted: Nils von Hofsten, "Upptacten av brostgangen och lymfkarlssystemet", Lychnos, (1939), pp. 262-88. Q64.L98.
  4. Axel Garboe, Thomas Bartholin, 1, (Copenhagen, 1949), 120-73.
  5. QM16.B26G2.
  6. Sten Lindroth, "Harvey, Descartes, and Young Olof Rudbeck," Journal of the History of Medicine, 12 (1957), 209-19.
  7. O. Larsell, "Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702)," Annals of Medical History, 10 (1928), 301-13.
  8. Olof Rudbeck, Atlantica (original Swedish text), 4 vols. Axel Nelson, ed. (Uppsala, 1938-50). Try the introduction in volume 1.
  9. Olof Rudbeck, "A Translation of Olof Rudbeck's Nova excertatio anatomica," biographical note by Göran Liljestrand, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 1 (1942), 304-39.
  10. Gunnar Eriksson, "Om ingenting: Olof Rudbeck's föreläsnings- program 1679," Lychnos (1979-80), pp. 79-108.
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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