Heister, Laurence

, a celebrated physician, surgeon, anatomist, and botanist, was born at Frankfort on the Maine, in 1683. He was educated in several German universities, and in 1706 spent some time in the study of anatomy and surgery at Amsterdam under Ruysch, then so famous for his dissections and anatomical preparations. In the following year he went to serve as a surgeon in the Dutch camp in Brabant; devoting the subsequent winter to further improvement, under Boerhaave and his eminent colleagues, who at that time attracted students from all parts to the university of Leyden, where Heister took his degree. Returning afterwards to the camp, he was, in 1709, appointed physician -general to the Dutch military hospital. The experience he thus acquired, raised him to a distinguished rank in the theory and practice of surgery, especially as he had a genius for mechanics, and was by that means enabled to bring about great improvements in the instrumental branch of his art. In 1710 he became professor of anatomy and surgery at Altorf, in the little canton of Uri, and rendered himself celebrated by his lectures and writings. Ten years afterwards a more | advantageous situation offered itself to him at Helmstad, where he became physician, with the title of Aulic counsellor, as usual, to the duke of Brunswick, as well as professor of medicine, and afterwards of surgery and botany, in that university. Here he continued till his death, which happened in 1758, at the age of seventy-five. The czar Peter invited him to Russia, but he was too comfortably situated in Germany, where the favour of several sovereigns already shone upon him at an early period, to accept the invitation.

Heister continued from time to time to publish a number of books relating to anatomy and surgery, to several of which he supplied figures drawn by his own hand. Among these, his most distinguished work is the “Compendium Anatomieuai,” an octavo volume, first printed in 1717, whidi became quite a classical book, superseding all that had been previously in use in the schools. It went through numerous editions, with successive additions and improvements, and was translated into most of the modern languages. His “Institutions of Surgery,” also published inGerman in 1718, was soon translated into Latin, and most of the modern languages of Europe, and went through numerous editions. He wrote also some works on the theory and practice of medicine, in which his opinions are formed on the mechanical principles of the Boerhaavian school; and a valuable practical work of Heister’s, a collection of medical, surgical, and anatomical observations, in quarto, is well known in this country by an English translation.

Heister seems early to have had a taste for botany, and to have collected plants, as Haller observes, in his various journeys. This taste enabled him to (ill the botanical chair at Helmstad with credit and satisfaction, and he paid great attention to the garden there, which he much enriched. His first botanical publication, “De Coilectione Simplicium,” was the inaugural dissertation. of one of his pupils named Rabe, printed in 1722; and had he written nothing else, his botanical labours should have been consigned to oblivion; but his subsequent works rank him as an original writer, and he might have acquired more fame had he been favoured with leisure to look deeper, and not been warped by preconceived ideas. In 1732 ha published a dissertation on the “Use of the Leaves” in founding genera of plants, preferring those parts for a natural arrangement, on account of the obscurity and difficulty attending those | of the flower. In August 1741, our author came forth as the professed adversary of Linnæus, in the inaugural dissertation of one of his pupils named Goeckel, entitled tl Meditationes et Animadversiones in novum Systema Botanicum sexuale LinniEi;“but the arguments by which the learned professor and his pupil attempt to prove the position they assume, that the” method of Linnæus is extremely difficult, very doubtful, and uncertain,“are not very cogent. Another dissertation of Heister’s, published in Oct. 1741,” de Nominum Piantarum Mutaiione utili ac noxia,“is a more diffuse and elaborate attack on the nomenclature of the great Swedish teacher, whom, however, he terms” a most diligent and most valuable botanist.“Nor does it appear that he was instigated to these attacks by any personal enmity, nor by any more extraordinary flow of bile than was usual among controversialists, of that day at least. Whatever he pursued, he pursued with ardour, and perhaps as he advanced in age, seated in professional state, he grew more pertinacious in his opinions. Hence his subsequent attacks on Linnæus are marked with more vehemence, but proportionably, as usual, with less reason. In 1748, notwithstanding his dislike to the Linnsean principles, he published a” Systema Piantarum Generale ex fructificatione, cui annectuntur regulaj ejusdem, de Nominibus Piantarum, a celeb. Linnaei longe diversae." This system is allied to that of Boerhaave, and though it takes into consideration many particulars of general habit or structure, is not more natural than the professedly artificial system of Linnæus.

We shall conclude with mentioning a very splendid publication of Heister in folio, in 1753, in which he describes the Amaryllis Orientals of Linnæus, which he names Brunsvigia alter his sovereign. 1


Rees’s Cyclopædia, by Dr. Smith. Stoever’s Life of Linnieus. p. 1 19 193. —Haller, Bibl. Bot.