The science and art of Dr. Sylvius

Franciscus Sylvius Deleboe (1614-1672) (© Wikimedia)

In the mid-17th century, Dr. Franciscus Sylvius was a professor of medicine at Holland’s first and most famous university. The Faculty at Leiden paid double the normal salary to entice the famous doctor from his lucrative Amsterdam practice, and his reputation attracted students from all over Europe. Dr. Sylvius performed over 300 anatomies during his tenure and had no less than three laboratories in his home. He made important discoveries about tuberculosis and the brain. He is even credited with the invention of gin!

Dr. Sylvius was also an avid patron and collector of art. More than 170 paintings and a multitude of other precious art-objects graced his home on the fashionable Rapenburg Canal. Many of the works reflected the questions he pursued in his medical research.

David Swatling paints a fascinating portrait of a little-known figure who was instrumental to what we now call the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century.

Producer: David Swatling

Broadcast: 29 May 29, 2000