Swammerdam, John

, an eminent naturalist and anatomist, was born at Amsterdam in 1637, where his father was an apothecary, and had a museum of natural history. He intended his son for the church, and with this view gave him a classical education, but the boy prevailed upon him to let him apply to physic. He was therefore kept at home, till he should be prpperly qualified to engage in that study, and frequently employed in cleaning, and arranging the articles of his father’s collection. From this occupation he acquired a taste for natural history, and soon began to form a museum of his own. Entomology having particularly struck his fancy, be became indefatigable in discovering, catching, and examining, the flying insects, not only in the province of Holland, but in those of Gueldreland and Utrecht. In 1661 he went to Leydeu, to pursue his studies, which he did with so much success, that, in 1663, he was admitted a candidate of physic, after undergoing the examinations prescribed on that occasion. On his arrival at Leyden, he contracted a friendship with the great anatomist Nicolas Steno, and ever after lived with him in intimacy.

The arcana of anatomy now exciting his curiosity, one of his first objects was to consider how the parts of the body, prepared by dissection, could be preserved in a state for anatomical demonstration; and in this he succeeded, as he had done before in his nicer contrivances to dissect and prepare the minutest insects. After this, he made a journey into France, where he spent some time at Saumur with Tanaquil Faber, and made a variety of observations upon insects. From Saumur he went to Paris, in 1664, where he lived in the same house with his friend Steno. He likewise contracted an intimacy with Thevenot, who strenuously recommended him to Conrad Van Beuningen, a senator and burgomaster of Amsterdam, and at that time that republic’s minister at the court of France: Beuningen obtained leave for Svvammerdam, at his return home, to dissect the bodies of such patients as should happen to die in the hospital of that city.

He returned to Leyden to take his degrees; and took the occasion of his stay there to cultivate a friendship with Van Home, who had been formerly his preceptor in anatomy. It was at this time, Jan. 1667, that in Van Home’s house, Swammerdam first injected the uterine vessels of a humaa subject with ceraceous matter, which most useful art he | afterwards brought to great perfection. In February the same year, he was admitted to his degree as doctor or physic, after having publicly maintained his thesis on respiration j which was then conceived only in short and contracted arguments, but appeared soon after with considerable additions, with a dedication to Thevenot. It was thus that Swammerdam cultivated anatomy with the greatest art and labour, in conjunction with Van Home; but a quartan ague, which attacked him this year, brought him so very low, that he found himself under a necessity of discontinuing these studies; which, on his recovery, he entirely neglected, in order to give himself up to his favourite pursuit of entomology.

In 1668, the grand duke of Tuscany being then in Holland with Mr. Thevenot, in order to see the curiosities of the country, carne to view those of Swammerdam and his father; and on this occasion, our author dissected some insects in the presence of that prince, who was struck with admiration at his uncommon dexterity in handling those minute objects, and especially at his proving, that the future butterfly lies with all its parts neatly folded up in a caterpillar; by actually removing the integuments that cover the former, and extricating and exhibiting all its parts, however minute, with incredible ingenuity, and by means of instruments of an inconceivable fineness. On this occasion his highness offered him 12,OOu florins for his share of the collection, provided he would remove them into Tuscany, and live at the court of Florence; but Swammerdam, from religious motives, as well as a dislike of a court life, declined the proposal. He now continued his researches into the nature and properties of insects, and in 1669, he published a general history of them, a work which afterwards proved the lasting monument of his talents. But, in the mean time his father resenting his neglect of his profession, endeavoured to recall him to it by refusing him any pecuniary aid. This induced him at last to promise to resume his profession; but, as he had injured his health by the closeness of his studies, a retirement to the country for some time was requisite that he might recover his strength, and return to his business with new force and spirits. He was, however, scarcely settled in his country retirement, when, in 1670, he relapsed into his former occupation. Thevenot, in the mean time, informed of the disagreement between Swammerdam and his lather, did | all that lay in his power to engage the former to retire into France, and probably some amicable arrangement might have been made, had not Swammerdam, in 1673, formed a connection with the then famous Antonia Bourignon, and became totally absorbed in all her mysticism and devout reveries. After this he grew altogether careless of the pursuits in which he had so much delighted, and withdrew himself in a great measure from the world, and followed and adopted all the enthusiasms of Antonia. In this persuasion he neglected his person, wasted away to the figure of a skeleton by his various acts of mortification, and died at Amsterdam in 1680.

The works of this celebrated anatomist and naturalist, are, 1. “Tractatus Physico-Anatomico-Medicus de Respiratione,Leyden, 1667, 1677, and 1679, in 8vo, and 1738, 4to. 2. “General History of Insects,Utrecht, 1669, 4to, in Dutch, but published there in 1685, 4to, in French, and at Leyden, in Latin, 1685, with fine engravings. 3. “Miraculuai Naturae, seu, nteri rnuliebris fetbrica,Leyden, 1672, 1679, 1717, 1729, 4to, with plates. He was impelled to this publication by Van Home, who had claimed some of his discoveries. 4. “Historia Insectorum generalis; adjicitur dilucidatio, qua specialia cujusvis ordinis exempla figuris accuratissime, tarn naturali magnitudine, quam ope microscopii aucta, illustrantur,” Leyd. 1733, 4to. This translation of his history of insects is by Henninius, but the best edition of this valuable work is that which appeared at Leyden in 1737, 2 vols. folio, under the title “Biblia Naturae, sive, Historia Insectorum in classes certas redncta, &c.” The learned owe this to Boerhaave, for the manuscript having been left by the author to his executors, had been handed about till it was difficult to be traced. Of this an English translation was published in 1757, folio, by sir John Hill and others, and with Boerhaave’s plates. 1

1 Life by Boerhaave, —Eloy, —Dict. Hist. de Medecine.