Boerhaave, Hermann

Boerhaave, Hermann

Boerhaave, Hermann, 1668-1738, Dutch physician and humanist. One of the most influential clinicians and teachers of the 18th cent., Boerhaave spent almost his entire life in Leiden, which became a leading medical center of Europe. Like Thomas Sydenham he helped to revive the Hippocratic method of bedside instruction; he further insisted on post-mortem examination of patients whereby he demonstrated the relation of symptoms to lesions. Boerhaave's syndrome, the spontaneous esophageal rupture, was named so because of his description of a Dutch admiral who overate and experienced a spontaneous rupture of the esophagus following vomiting. He thus instituted the clinico-pathological conference still in use today. Boerhaave's fame was enormous, extending far beyond Europe to China. Skilled as chemist, botanist, and anatomist, he adhered to no single tradition but combined the best features of the mechanistic and chemical schools in his own brand of eclecticism. His methods of instruction were spread throughout Europe by a host of students. Two of his writings, the Institutiones Medicinae (1708) and the Elementa Chemiae (1732) remained standard textbooks for decades.

Hermann Boerhaave, detail of a portrait by Cornelis Troost; in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

(born Dec. 31, 1668, Voorhout, Neth.—died Sept. 23, 1738, Leiden) Dutch physician. As a professor at the University of Leiden, he was renowned as a teacher, and he is often credited with founding the modern system of teaching medical students at the patient's bedside. His reputation as one of the greatest physicians of the 18th century lay partly in his attempts to organize the mass of medical information known at the time, in a series of major texts and encyclopedic works.

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