Famous Amsterdam Anatomist
The Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch preserved in Amsterdam during the years 1665-1717 over 2.000 anatomical preparations. He himself handled the scalpel 'to poke about in dead bodies'. He had to, he said, because anatomy books and their illustrations did not give him 'sufficient light'.
Preparations as proof
He kept his preparations, embalmed or hung in alcohol, at home. His preparations served as the material proof for his discoveries. Those he could not convince by his drawings, he invited to look for themselves at his home. For medical doctors, colleagues, students, scientists, philosophers, aristocrats and princes alike Ruysch opened up his Museum. For his visitors he had handsome illustrated guidebooks, Thesauri anatomici, printed. Here Ruysch described his preparations one by one and gave elaborate explanations.
From Amsterdam to Saint Petersburg
In 1717 Ruysch sold his entire collection for a fabulous high prize to a very prominent visitor, Tsar Peter I. The Tsar built for this collection a Kunstkamera that became the scientific centre where all knowledge was available and developed into the new Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. With this Peter I introduced European Enlightenment and modern sciences in Russia.
Cultural Heritage in Petersburg and Amsterdam reunited
In the Kunstkamera 915 specimens survive due to the excellent care of successive curators. The link however between object and text, was lost after the thesauri were not returned to the Academic Library by a reader.
In the Library of the University of Amsterdam copies of the Thesauri anatomici are still present.
First results of the research
An international research group took to making pairs out of the descriptions and the preparations. This proved more complicated then expected because distinguishing plants and animals, placed by Ruysch together with a specimen in one bottle turned out to have been removed since. The first results of preparations with their matching descriptions are shown here at this site.