A Gift From The Royal Society

In celebration of its 350th anniversary,  The Royal Society (London)  is opening its digital vaults again!

Celebrating three and a half centuries of science in 2010

The dissemination of scientific research has been a core activity for the Royal Society since it was granted a Royal Charter to publish in 1662. Three and a half centuries later, publishing is still a cornerstone of the Society’s work and Philosophical Transactions is officially the world’s longest-running scientific journal.

During the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary year in 2010, we will celebrate our contribution to science publishing by launching several commemorative initiatives, all of which will be completely free to access.

Go to this Royal Society Publishing page and enter your choice of either ‘Leeuwenhoek’, ‘Leeuwenhoeek’, ‘Leewenhoeck’ or ‘Leeuvenhoek’. Try your own variations of the spelling – who knows what you may come up with!

For instance, I did a search of  ‘de Graaf’, an early supporter of Leeuwenhoek, and it revealed the first published letter revealing Leeuwenhoek’s unique skill with the microscope:

PDF’s are free to download, but only until the 28th of February, 2010.

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.

The Legacy of Reinier de Graaf

Reinier de Graaf
Reinier de Graaf

It has been sometime since I have posted – recent changes in my life situation have left me somewhat pre-occupied. For now here is a link to a paper on Reinier de Graaf, the doctor who first introduced Leeuwenhoek to the Royal Society in London:

In the second half of the 17th century, a young Dutch physician and anatomist left a lasting legacy in medicine. Reinier (also spelled Regner and Regnier) de Graaf (1641–1673), in a short but extremely productive life, made remarkable contributions to medicine. He unraveled the mysteries of the human reproductive system, and his name remains irrevocably associated with the ovarian follicle.

De Graaf was born in Schoonhaven, Holland. After studying in Utrecht, Holland, De Graaf started at the famous Leiden University. As a student, De Graaf helped Johannes van Horne in the preparation of anatomical specimens. He became known for using a syringe to inject liquids and wax into blood vessels. At Leiden, he also studied under the legendary Franciscus Sylvius.

See The Legacy of Reinier de Graaf by Venita Jay, MD, FRCPC, for the complete paper.

(Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Nicolaus Steno – Scientist and Saint

From Today in Science History:

Niels_StensenNicolaus Steno. Born 10 Jan 1638; died 26 Nov 1686.
(a.k.a. Niels Steensen, or Stensen) was a Danish geologist and anatomist who first made unprecedented discoveries in anatomy, then established some of the most important principles of modern geology. During medical studies in Amsterdam he discovered “Stensen’s duct” providing saliva from the parotid gland to the mouth. He was Danish royal anatomist for 2 years. Interested by the characteristics and origins of minerals, rocks, and fossils, he published in Prodromus (1669) the law of superposition (if a series of sedimentary rocks has not been overturned, upper layers are younger and lower layers are older) and the law of original horizontality (although strata may be found dipping steeply, they were initially deposited nearly horizontal.)

From Wikipedia:

(1660) On instigation of Thomas Bartholin Steno first travelled to Rostock, then to Amsterdam and studied anatomy under Gerard Blasius, focusing again on the Lymphatic system. Steno discovered a previously undescribed structure, the “ductus stenonianus” (the duct of the parotid salivary gland) in sheep, dog and rabbit heads. A dispute with Blasius over credit for the discovery arose, but Steno’s name is associated with this structure.Within a few months Steno moved to Leiden. There Steno met the students Jan Swammerdam, Frederik Ruysch, Reinier de Graaf, Franciscus de le Boe Sylvius, a famous professor, and Baruch Spinoza.[4] Also Descartes was publishing on the working of the brain, and Steno did not think his explanation of the origin of tears was correct. Steno studied the heart, and found out it was an ordinary muscle.

In 1667, Nicolaus Steno, a Lutheran, converted to Catholicism and became a major figure in the Counter-Reformation.

He was beatified in 1988.

His Major Works:

  • Anatomical Observations (1662)
  • Concerning Solids naturally contained within solids (1669)
  • Elementary Mylogical Specimens (1669)
  • Discours de Monsieur Stenon sur L’Anatomie du Cerveau (“M. Steno’s lecture on the anatomy of the brain”, Paris 1669)

(N.B. Some list his birthday as the 1 January, and others as the 11 January)