De Morbis Oculorum

De Morbis Oculorum - Book 6

Johan van Heurne


This book was published posthumously by a grateful son celebrating his father’s accomplishments.

Johan van Huerne, (Ioannis Heurnius, 1543-1601), was a Dutch Physician, Philosopher, and Mathematician who was greatly influenced by the works of Aristotle and Vesalius. He was both a pioneer in academic teaching of anatomy as well as demonstrative clinical practice. Heurnius could read by age ten, and write at fourteen. He studied at University of Louvain and University of Paris with renown scholars of the time. He furthered his education obtaining a medical degree from the University of Padua and working under Girolamo Fabrizi, the "father of embryology". He became the personal physician to the Count of Cantecroix, but also served as medical practitioner to the people of Utretch. He later became professor of medicine at the University of Leiden, and for six years, the rector of his alma matter. After struggling with a "stone ailment" for more than a year, he passed away without being able to publish his work. That task befell on his eldest son Otto Heurnius, also a physician.

De morbis oculorum, aurium, nasi, dentitium et oris, liber editus post mortem autoris ab ejus filio Othone Heurnio is a collection of his notes and writings on the diseases and treatments of the eyes, ears, nose, teeth, and mouth. This work goes into details about dental diseases and their cures (of the time). Heurnius reinforces ideas from Johannes Arculanus (Giovanni D’Arcoli, 1390?-1458) a professor of Medicine in Bologna who filled teeth with gold, and Andreas Vesallius (1514-1564, Professor of Anatomy at Padua), author of the most famous anatomy atlas and text. Heurnius writes, "the number (of) total permanent dentition in women is rarely thirty-two unlike that of men," as well as that "pain may be located in the gums, dental nerve, or in the very substance of the tooth." For managing caries Heurnius' suggests placing oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid). He states, "sometimes worms are produced in carious teeth; to kill them a drop of oil of vitriol is an excellent remedy; and this at the same time cures the decay of the tooth and takes away the sensibility of the nerve." Additionally, he advocates narcotics, purgatives and bloodletting for the same ailment. He was conservative when it came to dental treatment, resorting extractions only when the tooth was completely putrefied. Overall Heurnius' work was not original but summarized previous knowledge in the field of anatomy.

(Based on research done by Pablo Munoz class of 2021 as part of his assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2017-2018. Edited by Ronna Abayev – Class of 2021.)

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