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Severinus [Sorensen], Petrus [Peder]

1. Dates
Born: Ribe, Jutland, 1542 [or 1540]
Died: Copenhagen, Jul 1602
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 60
2. Father
Occupation: Magistrate
Alderman Soeren Jessen.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Ribe, Jutland, Denmark
Career: Copenhagen, Denmark
Death: Copenhagen, Denmark
4. Education
Schooling: Copenhagen, M.A.; Padua; Unknown, M.D., P.D.
He attended the University of Copenhagen, where he lectured on Latin poetry before he was twenty. He received an M.A. (1563). I assume a B.A.
He was officially appointed Professor paedagogicus and, with the offer of financial support from the university, he set out with Johannes Pratensis to study abroad. 1565-71, he traveled through Germany, France and Italy. He matriculated at Padua, but took his Ph.D. and M.D. in France (I have not discovered where).
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran (assumed)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Iatrochemistry, Medicine
He was Denmark's leading adherent to Paracelsianism. Only two of his writings, which he tended not to finish, were published, Idea medicinae philosophicae (1571), the first major synthesis of Paracelsianism, and Epistola scripta Theophrasto Paracelso (1572), which reached a large audience.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Patronage, Medicine
Secondary: Personal Means
1563, Frederik II gave him a canonry in Viborg; the canonry was intended for a physician, and thus he was required to study medicine.
1564. Professor paedagogicus at the Univ. of Copenhagen.
1565, appointed to empty professorship. He resigned as professor paedagogicus.
During his traveling years he was professor at the University of Copenhagen. He evidently also had a successful medical practice for a time in Venice.
1571, upon his return to Denmark, he was appointed Canon of Roskild (so that he might have the income) and he became personal physician to Frederick II, a post which he held until his death, continuing under Christian IV. This position carried a high salary.
He also received endowments of landed property from the king.
He married into one of Denmark's richest bourgeois families; his wife was the daughter of Reinhardt Thorsmede of Flensburg.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
Frederick II, king of Denmark, (followed by Christian IV) was Severinus's patron his entire life, from the dedication of his first book, Idea medicinae philosophicae (1571) until his death.
By 1577, however, Severinus was complaining about the burdens of court life, in a letter to Tycho (see Thoren, p. 116).
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
He reintroduced paracelsianism to much of Europe.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None known
However, he corresponded with a number of leading Paracelsians, such as Zwinger, Gohory, and Moffet.
For a time he was friendly with Tycho, but they fell out in 1576, and they became enemies.
  1. A. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Aerzte aller Zeiten und Voelker (3rd ed., Munich, 1962), 5: 350-1.
  2. Gordon Norrie, "Soerensen," in Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, l4, 329-30.
  3. Eyvind Bastholm, ed., Petrus Severinus og hans "Idea medicinae philosophicae," En dansk paracelsist, Odense Universitetsforlag, 1979). Victor E. Thoren, The Lord of Uraniborg: A Biography of Tycho Brahe, (Cambridge, 1990), p. 116 and passim. Jole Shakelford, "Paracelsianism and Patronage in Early Modern Denmark," in Moran, ed. Patronage ands Institutions: Science, Technologyu, and Medicine at the European Court, 1500-1750, (Rochester, NY, 1991), pp. 83-109.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Kurt Sprengel, Versuch einer pragmatischer Geschichte der Arzneikunde, (Halle, 1800-3), 3 (1801), 408-13.
  2. Eyvind Bastholm, "Petrus Severinus (1542-1602), A Danish Paracelsist," Proceedings of the XXI International Congress of History of Medicine (Siena, 1968), 1080-5.
  3. Eyvind Bastholm, "Petrus Severinus (1542-1602). E dansk paracelsist," Särtryck ur Sydsvenska medicinhistoriska sällskapets ärsskrift (1970), 53-72.
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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