Ruysch, Frederic

, a celebrated anatomist and physician, was born at the Hague, in the month of March 1638, where his father was commissary of the States-general. Being sent to the university of Leyden, he devoted himself to the study of anatomy, botany, and chemistry, especially to the practical investigation of these sciences, having conceived an early bias to the profession of medicine. He repaired also to Franeker, for the farther pursuit of his studies; but received the degree of doctor at Leyden, in 1664. Even during his pupilage at Leyden, he was applied to by Sylvius and Van Home, to assist them in combating the vanity of Bilsius, who came thither to exhibit his boasted method of preserving dead bodies.

After taking his degree, Ruysch returned to the Hague, where he married, and began practice. In 1665 he published his treatise on the lacteal and lymphatic vessels, which contained the result of his inquiries while engaged in the dispute with Bilsiu*. In this work he does not deny that the existence of valves in the lymphatic had been noticed before, but he claims the honour of having first demonstrated them, and taught the method of discovering them. This ingenious tract immediately procured him reputation; and he was invited the year after to the chair of anatomy at Amsterdam; an invitation which he gl-adly accepted; and anatomy, both human and comparative, henceforth constituted the principal object of his life: he spared neither time, labour, nor expence, for the attainment of his purposes; he was almost continually employed in dissection, and not only examined with the most minute exactness every organ of the human body, but devised means by which to facilitate the detection and demonstration of | the different parts, and to preserve and exhibit them thus demonstrated. If he were not the discoverer of the use of injections, for the display of vascular and other structure, he contributed, together with the suggestions of De Graaf and Swammerdam, by his own ingenuity and industry, to introduce that important practice among anatomists. His collection of injected bodies is described, indeed, as marvellous; the 6nest tissue of capillary vessels being filled with the coloured fluids, so as to represent the freshness of youth, and to imitate sleep rather than death. In this way he had preserved foetuses in regular gradation, as well as young and adult subjects, and innumerable animals of all sorts and countries. His museum, indeed, both in the extent, variety, and arrangement of its contents, became ultimately the most magnificent that any private individual had ever accumulated, and was the resort of visitors of every description; generals, ambassadors, princes, and even kings, were happy in the opportunity of examining it. The czar Peter, in his journey through Holland in 1698, frequently dined at the frugal table of Ruysch, in order to spend whole days in his cabinet; and in 1717, on his return to Holland, the czar purchased it of him for 30,000 florins, and sent it to Petersburg. The indefatigable anatomist immediately commenced the labour of supplying its place by a new collection.

In the course of his investigations Ruysch became the anthor of some discoveries, which, however, were not all unknown toother anatomists; for his fault was a neglect of reading, and therefore he sometimes gave as new what other writers had described. Among other parts which he investigated minutely, were the pulmonary circulation (in which he claims the discovery of the bronchial artery), the, structure of the ear, of the brain, of the lymphatic and glandular system.

Ruysch was appointed professor of physic in 1685, a post which he filled with honour and reputation until 1728, when he unhappily broke his thigh by a fall in his chamber. He was also nominated superintendant of the mid wives at Amsterdam, in the exercise of which office he introduced some improvements. He was a member of the royal society of London, and of the academy of sciences of Paris, having succeeded sir Isaa Newton in the latter body in 1727. In the same year he had the misfortune to lose his son, Henry Ruysch, also doctor of physic, who, like | himself, was an able practitioner, well skilled in anatomy and botany, and was supposed to have materially assisted him in his publications, inventions, and experiments. This loss deprived him of his best assistance in completing the second collection of rarities, which he was occupied in making. His youngest daughter, however, who was still unmarried, and had been initiated into all the mysteries of his anatomical experiments, was fully qualified to assist him, and he proceeded with his new museum, retaining his general health until the commencement of 1731, when he was carried off by a fever, in the ninety-third year of his age.

Ruysch was the author of many publications, several of which were controversial; for his want of reading, and consequent differences with some of the learned of his profession, led him into frequent disputes. It becomes, however, unnecessary to repeat the titles of them as separately published, since the whole were published at Amsterdam in 1721, under the title of “Opera omnia Anatomico-Medico-Chirurgica, and again in 1735, 5 vols. 4to, which is the most complete edition. His son, Henry Ruysch, published” Theatrum universale omnium animalium," 1718, 2 vols. fol. 1


Dict. Hist. de Medecine.—Rees’s Cyclopædia.Niceron, vol. XXXI.