Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Swammerdam, John

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From volume XXII of the work.
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SWAMMERDAM, John (1637-1680), may be ranked almost with Leeuwenhoek as one of the most eminent Dutch naturalists of the 17th century. Born at Amsterdam in 1637, the son of an apothecary and naturalist, he was destined for the church; but he insisted on passing over to the profession of medicine, meanwhile passionately devoting himself to the study of insects. Having necessarily to interest himself in human anatomy, he devoted much attention to the preservation and better demonstration of the various structures, and he devised the method of studying the circulatory system by means of injections, so doing the greatest service to practical anatomy. The fame of his collection soon became European; thus the grand-duke of Tuscany offered him 12,000 florins for his collection, on condition of his coming to Florence to continue it. His General History of Insects and other kindred works lie at the foundation of modern entomology, and include many important discoveries. Thus he cleared up the subject of the metamorphosis of insects, and in this and other ways laid the beginnings of their natural classification, while his researches on the anatomy of mayflies and bees were also of fundamental importance. His devotion to science led to his neglect of practice; his father greatly resented this, and stopped all supplies; and thus Swammerdam experienced a period of considerable privation, which had the most unfortunate consequences to his health, both bodily and mental. In 1675 he published his History of the Ephemera, and in the same year his father died, leaving him an adequate fortune, but the mischief was irreparable. He became a hypochondriac and mystic, joined the followers of Antoinette Bourignon, and died at Amsterdam in 1680.