Born Today – Franciscus Sylvius

From Today in Science History:

Franciscus Sylvius and his Wife
Franciscus Sylvius and his Wife

Franciscus Sylvius, born 15 Mar 1614; died 19 Nov 1672 . Dutch (but German born) physician, chemist and physiologist who was the founder of the seventeenth century’s “iatrochemical school of medicine,” which related living processes to chemical reactions. Thus, Sylvius helped move medicine away from mysticism (with its “humours” of blood, phlegm and biles) and towards an approach based in physics and chemistry. Sylvius strongly supported Harvey‘s view of blood circulation, and viewed the body chemistry as a balance between base and acids, capable of neutralizing each other. Sylvius and his followers studied the digestive juices, with which they recognized saliva, and viewed digestion as a kind of fermenting process. He may also have organized the first university chemistry laboratory.

Sylvius’s students at the University of Leiden included Jan Swammerdam, Reinier de Graaf, Niels Stensen and Burchard de Volder.

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