Sylvius, James

, a celebrated physician of France, was the son of Nicholas du Bois, a camblet-weaver, who had eleven sons and four daughters. He was born at Amiens in Picardy, in 1478, and went through a course of classical learning, under his elder brother Francis Sylvius; who was principal of the college of Tournay at Paris, and was a great promoter of letters in that age of barbarism. There he learned the Latin language, in much greater purity than it had been taught for a long time; and hence it was, that his writings are distinguished to such advantage by the elegance of the style. He became a very accomplished scholar in Latin and Greek, and had some little knowledge of the Hebrew; and applied himself also to mathematics and mechanics so successfully, as to invent machines, which deserved public notice. When the time was come for giving himself entirely up to physic, to which study his inclination had always led him, he traced it to its sources; and engaged so deeply in the reading of Hippocrates and Galen, that he scarcely did any thing but examine and translate those two authors. He discovered from thence the importance of anatomy, and applied himself to it so ardently, that he became as great a master as that age would permit. He studied pharmacy with no less care, and took several journeys to see, upon the spot, the medicines which different countries produce. Upon his return to Paris, he read lectures, and explained in two years a course of physic from Hippocrates and Galen; which so much extended his reputation, that scholars from all parts of Europe resorted to him. But being prohibited at last from teaching as not having taken his degree, he went to Montpellier in 1520 for that purpose, but not being willing to pay the expences of graduation, he returned to Paris, and by an agreement with the faculty, recommenced his lectures, although only a bachelor of physic. In 1535 he taught in the college of Treguier, while Fernelius taught in tbat of Cornouailles; but the latter had few scholars, while the former had about five hundred. The reason of this difference was, that Sylvius dissected bodies, and read lectures upon botany and the preparation of medicines, advantages which the scholars of Fernelius had not. The professorship of physic in the royal college becoming vacant in 1548, Sylvius was nominated to fill it; which he did, after hesitating about it two years. He continued in it till his death, which | happened Jan. 13, 1555. He was never married, and shewed even an aversion to women. His personal character was particularly obnoxious. His behaviour was rude and barbarous. He had nothing social in his temper, or ever departed from a certain pompous stiffness; and it was observed that when he attempted to relax, he did it aukwardly. The only witticism related of him is, that “he had parted with three beasts, his cat, his mule, and his maid.” His avarice was extreme, and he lived in the most sordid manner: he allowed his servants nothing but dry bread, and had no fire all the winter. Two things served him as a remedy against cold; he played at foot-ball, and carried a great log upon his shoulders: and he said that the heat which he gained by this exercise was more beneficial to his health than that of a fire. He was most rigid in demanding his fees from his scholars, yet was puzzled often what to do with his money, for when, in 1616, his house in the rue de St. Jacques was pulled down, the workmen found many pieces of gold, which he had probably hid and knew not where to find. This avarice, which was his ruling passion, exposed him to the wit of his contemporaries. Buchanan has a distich on him, beginning “Sylvius hie situs est, gratis qui nil dedit unquam, &c.” and a dialogue was published under the title of “Sylvius ocreatus,” or “Sylvius booted,” of which it was thought that Henry Stephens was the author, by the assumed name of Ludovicus Arrivabenus Mantuanus. It is founded on the supposition that Sylvius, wishing to pass Acheron without paying anything, went in boots that he might ford it. This satire was answered by John Melet, one of his pupils, who adopted the name of Claudius Burgensis, and entitled his performance “Apologia in Lud. Arrivabenum pro D. J. Silvio.

The various works of Sylvius which had been published separately were collected by Ren6 Moreau, under the title *' J. Sylvii opecp. medica in sex partes digesta, castigata, &c.“Geneva, 1630, fol. with a life of the author, the satire and answer just mentioned, and Sylvius’s Latin poetry, which first appeared in 1584, 4to. He was a strenuous adherent to Galen, except in his love of judicial astrology, which Sylvius opposed. The French have some translations from his works, to which may be added, not in the preceding volume, a Latin and French grammar printed at Paris in 1531. He lived upon very bad terms | with Vesalius, who occasioned him the greatest vexation he ever suffered. Sylvius, whose excellence lay in anatomy, had prepared a work upon that subject, which he considered as a master-piece. Upon this, Vesalius published, in 1541, his” Opus Anatomicum," which was so well written, and illustrated with so many beautiful figures, that it was universally admired. Two circumstances aggravated this grievance; Vesalius had been Sylvius’s pupil; and he had attacked Galen, whom Sylvius defended, even in his errors. 1


Eloy —Dict. Hist. de Medecine.—Biog Univ. art. Dubois.—Niceron, vol. XXIX.