Bartholin, Caspar

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Bartholin, Caspar

(b. Malmö, Denmark [now Sweden], 12 February 1585; d. Sorø, Denmark, 13 July 1629)

theology, anatomy.

Bartholin’s father, Bertel Jespersen was court chaplain; his mother, Ane Rasmusdotter Tinckel, the daughter of a clergyman from Skåne. Because of his aptitude for languages Caspar was sent to grammar school when he was only three; at eleven he delivered lectures in Greek and Latin. In 1603 he matriculated at the University of Copenhagen, but transferred the following year to Wittenberg, where he studied philosophy and theology for the next three years. He was respondens at theses, lectured, and was elected master of philosophy and humane arts in 1608 with the thesis Exercitatio physica de natura. In 1606 Bartholin traveled through Germany to Holland, France, and England, visiting the universities and meeting learned physicians and philosophers. During a stay at Leiden he began to study medicine, but without giving up theology. After a short visit home he returned to Wittenberg, where in 1606 he published Exercitatio de stellis, which was reissued seven times with queries and corrections, as Astrologia sive de stellarum naturae, emendiator et auctior.

In 1607 Bartholin went to Basel, where he lectured and worked with Felix Platter, Gaspard Bauhin, and Jacob Zwinger. While there he was offered the M.D. degree, but declined it. From 1608 to 1610 Bartholin was in Italy, where he studied anatomy and performed dissections at Padua with Fabricius ab Aquapendente and Casserio, and at Naples, where he was offered a professorship in anatomy. He helped to prepare the engravings for Casserio’s work on the sense organs, Pentaesthesicon (1609), and his anatomical studies here formed the basis for the manual Anatomicae institutiones corporis humani (1611), which made him famous. During this time he also published several manuals of logic, physics, and ethics: Enchiridion logicum ex Aristotele (1608), Janitores logici bini (1609), Disp. physica Basileensis (1610), and Enchiridion metaphysicum ex philosophorum coryphaei (1610).

During a visit to Basel in 1610 Bartholin was made doctor of medicine after defending his Paradoxa CCXL pathologica, simiotica, diaetetica. When he returned to Denmark in 1611 he was appointed professor eloquentia at the University of Copenhagen. His marriage in 1612 to Anna Fincke, daughter of the professor of medicine Thomas Fincke, strengthened his ties to the university. He became professor of medicine in 1613, inaugurating his lectures with a speech on the use of philosophy in medicine. During the next ten years he wrote prolifically and lectured on medicine, physics, and religion, but he performed no dissections at Copenhagen. By 1622 his health had failed and, tortured by renal stones and rheumatism, he sought recovery at Carlsbad.

Vowing to continue his theological studies, upon his cure in 1624 Bartholin accepted a professorship of theology at the University of Copenhagen. Two years later he was made a doctor of divinity, and in the following years he published such works as De natura theologiae (1627), De auctoritate Sacrae Scripturae (1627), Benedictio Aharonis (1628), and Systema physicum (1628). A mild religious tone is found in his writings, especially in De studio theologico ratione inchoando et continuando (1628), where he urges the young to study Holy Writ in both the vernacular and the original language. In 1629, when he was dean of the University of Copenhagen for the second time, Bartholin went to visit his children, who had been removed to Sorø for fear of the plague at Copenhagen. He died there, of renal failure, in the home of his friend J. Burser (1583–1639), a botanist.

Bartholin’s fame is due not to his originality, but to his learning and reputation as a teacher; as a strict Aristotelian he clarified the essential points in the doctrines of his time, eliminating obsolete and superfluous theories. As a theologian his personal life was marked by piety and Lutheran orthodoxy. His anatomical manual Institutiones, well arranged and handy but without illustrations, was reprinted five times. It became still more famous when his son Thomas brought out an enlarged and illustrated edition. Novis recentiorum opinionibus (1641). In addition to four main sections on the abdomen, thorax, head, and extremities there were four libelli on the blood vessels, nerves, and skeleton. It was the first manual to describe the olfactory nerves, found by Casserio, as the first pair of cerebral nerves. Bartholin called the suprarenal glands, recently discovered by Bartolomeus Eustachius, the capsulae atrabiliares, in the belief that they were hollow and the source of black bile. In 1628 Bartholin published an excellent textbook, De studio medico, for his sons.


I. Original Works. A full catalog of Bartholin’s works is in H. Ehrencron-Müller, Forfatterlexikon, I (Copenhagen, 1924), 258–264. Individual works are Exercitatio de stellis (Wittenberg, 1606), reissued as Astrologia sive de stellarum naturae, emendiator et auctior (Wittenberg, 1606; 6th ed., 1627); Enchiridion logicum, ex Aristotele (Augsberg, 1608); Exercitatio physica de natura (Wittenberg, 1608); Janitores logici bini (Wittenberg, 1609); Disp. physica Basileensis (Basel, 1610); Enchiridion metaphysicum ex philosophorum coryphaei (Augsburg, 1610); Paradoxa CCXL pathologica, simiotica, diaetetica (Basel, 1610); Anatomicae institutiones corporis humani (Wittenberg, 1611); De auctoritate Sacrae Scripturae (Copenhagen, 1627); De natura theologiae (Copenhagen, 1627); Benedictio Aharonis (Copenhagen, 1628); De studio medico (Copenhagen, 1628); De studio theologico ratione inchoando et continuando (Copenhagen, 1628); and Systema physicum (Copenhagen, 1628). The Institutiones was translated by Simon Paulli as Künstliche Zerlegung menschlichen Leibes (Copenhagen, 1648) and also into Italian (Florence, 1651).

II. Secondary Literature. V. Ingerslev, DanmarksLaeger og Laegevaesen, I (Copenhagen, 1873), 270–274, and G. A. Sommelius, Lexicon eruditor. Scanensium, I (Lund, 1776), 133–146, give biographical information, while E. Gotfredsen, Medicinens historie (Copenhagen, 1964), p. 230, treats Bartholin’s time.

E. Snorrason

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Bartholin, Caspar

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