Anatome Quartum Renovata, 1677

Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680)

     

Anatome Quartum Renovata, 1677

   

Anatome Quartum Renovata, 1677

     

Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680)

Thomas Bartholin, a Danish anatomist and physician, came from the well-known Bartholin family of Copenhagen and contributed to the development of science, anatomy, and medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries. Thomas was the second of the six sons of Caspar Bartholin the Elder (1585-1629) and his spouse, Anne Fincke. Thomas studied at the University of Copenhagen in 1634; from 1637, he studied medicine at the University of Leiden. From 1640 we find him at Montpellier and finally at the famous University of Padua under the guidance of the anatomist Johann Vesling (1598-1649). In 1645, he returned to Copenhagen, conducting anatomical dissections, leading to the discovery of the lymphatic system. In 1654, he was appointed professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Thomas Bartholin was greatly influenced by Harvey’s (1578-1657) description of blood circulation and by Gaspare Aselli’s (1581-1625) discovery of lacteal vessels. In 1651, Jean Pecquet (1622-1679) established that lacteals drain into the cistern chili, the thoracic duct, and finally into the blood circulatory system. Bartholin undertook dissections to corroborate these findings in humans and discovered the vasa lymphatica. He noted that these vessels carried fluid into the blood system via the thoracic duct, confirming Pecquet. Bartholin published the results in 1653 in Vasa Lymphatica. Bartholin’s efforts were critical for establishing the anatomical details of the lymphatic as an independent circulatory system. 

In 1641, he published the first of many editions of his father’s Anatomy book Anatomicae Institutiones Corporis Humani (1611). It was largely revised and updated. He was one of the first to include Harvey’s observations on blood circulation. It became one of his most popular texts.

Anatome Quartum Renovata (1677), the book in our collection, was a state-of-the-knowledge of anatomy for that time. There were detailed texts for thoracic ducts and lymphatic vessels, including his own discoveries. He also replaced some old illustrations with more anatomical details. The 1677 edition was published three years before Bartholin’s death. A new edition was also published in 1684 after his death. This book became widely used across Europe.

Based on research done by Gaoan Sheng, class of 2026, as part of their assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2022-2023. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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