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Vesling, [Veslingius], Johann

1. Dates
Born: Minden, Westphalia, 1598
Died: Padua, 30 August 1649
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 51
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
All we know is that his Catholic family apparently fled to Vienna to escape religious persecution.
No information of financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: German
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Leiden, Bologna; M.D.
The old accounts have him studying medicine in Vienna or Padua, but they have no evidence to support this.
He enrolled in Leiden on 15 Nov. 1619.
Possibly on the advice of his teacher Vorstius, he went to Bologna. It appears, however, that he did not receive a degree from either university. La Cava speaks of his earning the laurels in Venice (not Padua) in 1628. While there are bizarre aspects to this, his whole subsequent career implies an M.D., so I am accepting it.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Anatomy, Botany
Subordinate: Embryology, Pharmacology
Vesling published Syntagma anatomicum, 1641, an extremely popular text that went through many editions and many translations. It includes a number of original observations, including some on the lacteals and lymphatics.
In Egypt Vesling studied the flora and later published De plantis aegyptiis, 1638. In 1638 he ceased to lecture on surgery at Padua and turned wholly to botany. In the final years of his life he renovated the botanical garden in Padua. As the botanical garden in Padua implies, his study of plants, from the beginning in Egypt, include their pharmacological uses.
In Egypt Vesling also studied the development of the chicken in artificially hatched eggs.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Academia
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Patronage
One of the few documented facts from Vesling's early life is an anatomical demonstration at Venice in the winter of 1627-8, which gained him the right to practice medicine in the city. Older accounts of Vesling's life all report that he gave highly successful public lectures on anatomy in Venice between his stay in Egypt and his appointment in Padua. Established dates, which show that he was still in Egypt, make this impossible. Castiglioni asserts that he was an instructor in anatomy in the medical college of Venice in 1727, i.e., before he went to Egypt. This would tie all of the information and accounts together.
He served as the physician to Alvise Cornaro when Cornaro was the Venetian representative in Cairo. They left for Cairo in August 1628. Vesling's continued presence there in May 1632 is established, and it appears that he returned to Venice early in 1633, after he had been appointed Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at Padua on 30 December 1630.
There are references to his practicing medicine in Padua.
8. Patronage
Type: Aristrocrat
Not only did Vesling serve with Cornaro, but it appears highly probable to me that Cornaro stood behind the appointment in Padua. There was no university appointment without patronage.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
His connection with the botanical garden entailed pharmacology, and already in Egypt his initial study was of medicinal plants.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
After Vesling's death Thomas Bartholin published papers and letters posthumously, but I have not seen their relationship elucidated. Sources; A. Castiglioni, "Vesling," Enciclopedia Italiana, 35 (1937), 218. Howard Adelmann, Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology, 5 vols. (Ithaca, N.Y., 1966), 2, 779-80. A. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Aerzte aller Zeiten und Voelker (1888 ed.), 6, 97-8. P.A. Saccardo, "La botanica in Italia," Memorie del Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 26 (1895), 170. Michaud, Biographie générale, 43, 255-6. A. Francesco La Cava, "Giovanni Vesling," Castalia: rivista di storia della medicina, 41 (the number is blurred; it might be 4), (1948), 61-8.
  1. 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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