Commentary on Boerhaave'sAphorisms&Institutiones Medicae

  • Reference
      GB 133 MMM/23/2/3
  • Dates of Creation
      n.d. [17--]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 items

Scope and Content

A supplementary commentary on Hermann Boerhaave's 1709 work Aphorismi de Cognoscendis et Curandis Morbis spread across three volumes. Whilst Boerhaave's student Gerard van Swieten (1700-1772) is most famous for writing a commentary on the Aphorisms the source and creator of these three manuscripts is not certain. As the title suggests the content is set out in a series of numbered aphorisms and further divided following the original structure laid down by Boerhaave.

The three volumes were allocated the reference F 109 viz. the Manchester Medical Society's 1890 library catalogue.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hermann Boerhaave was born in Voorhout, Netherlands on 31 December 1668. Having originally studied theology at the University of Leiden he eventually turned his attention to the study of medicine and received his medical degree from the academy of Harderwijk in 1693 following the submission of the thesis De utilitate explorandorum in aegris excrementorum ut signorum. He soon settled in Leiden and established his own private practice in addition to giving private lectures in mathematics. In 1701 he was appointed as lecturer in medicine at the University of Leiden.

Boerhaave did much to heighten the reputation of the Medical School at Leiden and soon gained a significant reputation across Europe following the publication of some of his lectures as textbooks, namely Institutiones medicae (1708) and Aphorismi de congnoscendis et curandis morbis (1709). In 1709 he filled the newly vacant chair of botany and medicine and in turn became ex officio supervisor of the botanical garden. In 1715 he also took on the chair of practical medicine. He served as vice-chancellor of the university in 1714 and 1730 and in 1730 also revived clinical teaching in Leiden.

On the death of the professor of chemistry in 1718 Boerhaave was chosen to fill the role. Consequently he held simultaneously three of the five chairs that formed Leiden's Faculty of Medicine. During his career Boerhaave demonstrated an interest in systematism and a commitment to building a comprehensive medical doctrine. He made significant contributions in the fields of physiology and chemistry and introduced quantitative methods into chemistry. Students came from many different countries to hear Boerhaave's lectures and a number of his former students went on to become faculty members of the newly formed Edinburgh Shcool of Medicine in 1726.

In 1729 he resigned both his professorship of chemistry and his professorship of botany. His work was recognised internationally and he was made a foreign member of the Académie Royale des Sciences of Paris in 1728 and a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1730. He died after a long illness on 23 September 1738.


'Boerhaave, Hermann', Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 2 (Detroit: Charles Scribener's Sons, 2008) pp.224-8. Harry Bloch, 'Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738): Life, teacher, practitioner, and activator of hippocratic clinical teaching', The Journal of Acute and Critical Care, 1995, 24(2) pp.91-3.