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18.08.2020 | main topic | Ausgabe 11-12/2020

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 11-12/2020

Gerard van Swieten, the Dutch personal physician of Empress Maria Theresia (1700–1780)

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift > Ausgabe 11-12/2020
Prof. em. Jan G van den Tweel, Prof. Roland Sedivy
Wichtige Hinweise
Prof. van den Tweel sadly died shortly before the paper was published.

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Born as orthodox catholic in 1700 in Leyden, Gerard van Swieten was orphaned as a child in 1712. He studied medicine under Herman Boerhaave in Leyden from 1720, recording the lectures of his mentor and publishing them after his death. Following his graduation in 1715, van Swieten practiced medicine and pharmacy in Leyden, giving private lectures to students in both fields. Van Swieten became known as a brilliant doctor, and it was expected that he might succeed to Boerhaave’s position after his death in 1738; however, his catholic faith was an obstacle for the protestant State University. These very beliefs, however, contributed to his instatement as the personal physician of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia (1717–1780) in October 1744. In the summer of 1745 he was appointed physician to Maria Theresa in Vienna by Franz I. and at the same time appointed prefect of the court library. In addition to taking care of the library, other tasks he received from Maria Theresia included reformation of the medical faculty, improving the quality of Vienna’s clinics and promoting healthcare in the empire. Van Swieten is seen as one of the founders of the so-called First Wiener Medical School (Erste Wiener Medizinische Schule) in 1745, and was at the founding of the first modern clinic in 1754. Van Swieten died June 18, 1772.

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