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Sylvius, Franciscus dele Bo

1. Dates
Born: Hanau, Germany 15 March 1614.
Died: Leiden, 15 November 1672.
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 58
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
Isaac dele Bo. Sylvius' grandfather, a descendent of a noble family, was a merchant. He emigrated from Kamerijk (Cambrai) in Flanders to Frankfurt-am-Main for religious reasons; he was a Protestant. The father was also a merchant.
King says it was a well-to-do family, and the circumstances of Sylvius' education and early professional life seem to bear this out. I.e., affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: German
Career: Dutch
Death: Dutch
4. Education
Schooling: Leiden, Wittenberg, Jena; Basel, M.D.
His initial education was in the Protestant academy in Sedan.
1633-5, studied medicine in Leiden.
After visits to Wittenberg and Jena, he took his M.D. in Basel in 1637.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Anatomy, Iatrochemistry
Sylvius was the leading representative of the school of iatrochemistry.
His main work: Praxeos medicae idea nova, 1671.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Academia
Secondary: Schoolmastering
He practiced for one and a half years in Hanau, but became dissatisfied.
He returned to Leiden, where he gave private lectures on anatomy. He was one of the first to defend the circulation of the blood in the Netherlands.
Because there appeared to be no prospect of an appointment at the university, he moved to Amsterdam (1641), where he established a practice that was immediately lucrative.
In 1658, finally appointed Professor of Medicine at Leiden, with the salary of 1800 guilders (said to be exceptional, twice the standard salary).
Vice-Chancellor of the university in 1669-70.
8. Patronage
Type: Unknown
Someone of influence had to stand behind the appointment at Leiden.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Medical College
Amsterdam College of Physicians.
  1. Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek.
  2. Lester King, The Road to Medical Enlightenment, 1650-1695, (New York, 1970), pp. 93-112. This is primarily about his medical theories, not his life.
  3. E. Ashworth Underwood, "Franciscus Sylvius and his Iatrochemical School," Endeavour, 31 (1972), 73-6.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Frank Baker, "The Two Sylviuses. An Historical Study," Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin, 20 (1909), 329-39.
  2. Evert D. Baumann, Francois dele Bo Sylvius, (Leiden, 1949).
  3. Since Baumann composed the sketch of Sylvius in NNBW, I have not bothered to call the book by interlibrary loan.
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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