Opera Médica (1679) and Totius Medicinae Idea Nova (1671, Only volume II)

Franciscus De La Boë (Sylvius)


Opera Médica (1679)


Totius Medicinae Idea Nova (1671, Only volume II)


Franciscus De La Boë (Sylvius)

March 15, 1614, Hanau - November 19, 1672, Leiden) was a German/Dutch physician, physiologist, anatomist, and chemist - based much of his research on William Harvey's study on the circulation of blood (De Motu Cordis, 1628).

Sylvius began his medical education at a Calvinist academy, followed by the Leiden University (1632-1634), under the tutorship of Adoplh Vorstius and Otto Hernius, followed by the universities of Wittenberg and Jena. He received his medical degree at the Basel University, Switzerland, in 1637 with his doctoral thesis De Animali Motu Ejusque Læsionbus (On the blood circulation and its disorders), written under the supervision of Emmanuel Stupanus. His career took him to Leiden University and later on to Amsterdam, and in 1657, he returned to Leiden as a Professor of Medicine (1658-72).  According to William Osler, Franciscus Sylvius was a disciple of Van Helmont, who established the first chemical laboratory in Europe (in Leyden, 1669).

Sylvius is credited with the introduction of clinical teaching in medicine. He states in 1664: "I have led my pupils by the hand to medical practice, using a method unknown at Leyden, or perhaps elsewhere, i.e., taking them daily to visit the sick at the public hospital. There I put the symptoms of disease before their eyes; have let them hear the complaints of the patients and have asked them their opinions as to the causes and rational treatment of each case, and the reasons for those opinions. Then I have given my own judgment on every point. Together with me, they have seen the happy results of treatment…"

Another important contribution of Sylvius was establishing the Iatrochemical School of Medicine. Its fundamental theory is that all disease and life processes are based on chemical actions and reactions (moving away from the era's mystical thinking). Sylvius was a follower of the iatrochemical school of Theophrastus Bombastus de Hohenheim, also known as Paracelsus. Some of Sylvius' famous students at Leiden University included Jan Swammerdam (Dutch biologist and microscopist), Burchard de Volder (Dutch physicist), Niels Stensen (Dutch physician of the Stensen duct fame), and Reiner (Regnier) de Graff (Dutch physiologist). Between 1669-70 he was appointed Vice-chancellor of Leiden University. Sylvius passed away on November 19, 1672.

Sylvius’ Works

Opera Medica (Medical Work – 1679, our copy), is a compilation of his life’s work, published posthumously. The book begins with his writing Disputationem Medicarum – Medical Arguments (1663). In it he mentions the lateral fissure of the brain (lateral sulcus), subsequently named after Sylvius. He is also credited with describing the Sylvian Aqueduct - a cerebral conduit for cerebrospinal fluid located between the third and fourth ventricles.    

His second work in Opera Medicæ is Praxeos Medicæ Idea Nova - New Idea in Medical Practice (1671). Praxeos Medicæ is perhaps Sylvius's most influential book, explaining the chemical reactions of acids and bases in both the pancreas and salivary glands, on of the focal points of Sylvius' medical studies. Opera Medicæ also includes a section called De Methodo Medendi - Method of Healing, in which Sylvius explains the ways of the body and how it heals itself. The book's final section is Opuscula Varia, a section made up of several studies.

The 1671 volume in our collection (Operum Pars SecundaTotius medicinae idea nova, seu Francisci Silvii de Le Boë, medici inter Batavos celeberrimi Opera Omnia) is more relevant to field of dentistry. Although we only have the second volume, it contains head and neck diseases, including hearing, olfactory, taste, touch, and temperature perception disorders.

Based on research done by Akaysia Jensen, a summer student, 2023. Edited by Andrew I. Spielman.

Digital Version

Opera Médica (1679) >>>

Digital Version

Totius Medicinae Idea Nova (1671, Only volume II) >>>