Letter | Published:

Jan Swammerdam

Nature volume 139, page 287 (13 February 1937) | Download Citation



SINCE writing the sketch of Swammerdam which appeared in NATURE of February 6, p. 218, I have received some notes on the Dutch naturalist from that learned enthusiast Dr. H. Engel, of Amsterdam, which I hope he will publish in full in his forthcoming paper on the same subject. When I wrote my own contribution, I had not succeeded in obtaining a copy of the oration delivered by Prof. B. J. Stokvis at the celebration of the bicentenary of the death of Swammerdam held at Amsterdam in 1880. From this publication, and from Dr. Engel, I now learn that Swammerdam's grandfather was Jacob Dirksz. (= Jacob the son of Dirk, ang. Theodore or Richard), who was a wood merchant living in the village of Swammerdam, and it was he who migrated to Amsterdam and there adopted the name by which the great naturalist is known. Swammerdam's father, the apothecary, was therefore Jan or Johan Jacobsz. (= Jan the son of Jacob), and Swammerdam himself was baptized at the Oude Walenkerk of Amsterdam on Sunday, February 15, 1637, as Jan the son of Jan Jacobsz. Swammerdam and Baerta Jans Corvers. According to Harting, as quoted by Stokvis, Swammerdam's scientific career extended over twelve years only, from 1663 until 1675. It is improbable that he ever practised medicine. When he died, he was nearly forgotten, and it was the ” magician” Boer-haave who brought to light his lost MSS. which gave immortality to the ” sleeping beauty”.

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  1. The University, Reading.

    • F. J. COLE


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