Between theory and practice: Franciscus dele Boë, Sylvius on nervous diseases

Harm Beukers
University of Leiden, The Netherlands

One of the brightest lights of Leiden University in the seventeenth century was Franciscus dele Boë, better known as Sylvius (1614 - 1672). Industrious as anatomist, experimentator and teacher (particularly bedside teaching in the Caecilia Hospital), he was fertile in original ideas. He put forward a doctrine that grew to the prominence of the iatrochemistry. Fundamental aspect was the effervescence, the chemical reaction between acid and alkali. In the neurological sciences Sylvius is still well known as anatomist who gave his name to different structures in the brain. For his contemporaries he was famous for the chemical interpretation of physiological processes. He considered for instance the animal spirit, essential for the activity of the nervous system, as the simplest and purest body fluid, comparable to wine spirit. Nervous diseases were, in his opinion, disorders of the animal spirit usually caused by acid, volatile spirits.

Invited Lecture
Saturday, 21 June 1997, 15.30

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands