Ignaz Döllinger

1770 (Bamberg, Germany) – 1841 (Munich)

Döllinger was at the forefront of a more modern way of thinking about bodily and other natural processes. Agassiz, Oken, Baer, Pander, Schimper and Braun were all among his students. Oken later became a colleague in Munich, where Agassiz, schimper and Braun lodged with him, and found him an enthusiastic encourager, bringing botanical specimens to Braun and keeping an eye on Agassiz’s breeding experiments (their room became the centre of much academic activity, and was known as the ‘Little Academy’.

Ignaz Döllinger knew…

Albrecht von Haller

1708 (Bern) – 1777 (Bern)

Haller revolutionised physiology. Boerhaave and Albinus taught him at Leiden, and Winsløw in Paris (he also studied mathematics with Bernoulli in Basel). Pringle was a fellow-student and close friend, corresponding for decades and instrumental in Haller’s opium addicition. Haller met Sloane and Cheselden in London, corresponded in Latin with Linnaeus for 30 years, and called Morgagni his master. Réaumur, Bodmer, Sulzer, Gottsched, Voltaire, Euler and Morgagni were among his extensive correspondents. Casanova visited him, describing him as a physical as well as mental colossus.

John Hunter

1728 (East Kilbride, Scotland) – 1793 (London)

Hunter transformed the art of surgery, giving it a firm scientific basis, and anticipated the scientific understanding of fossils and geological time. Pott and Cheselden taught him, while he taught Jenner, who became a friend for life, and Carlisle. He chaired the scientific group meeting at Slaughter’s Coffee House (Banks, Maskelyne, Solander, Cook, Smeaton, et al.), sent Boulton a figure of Death, and treated his neighbour Reynolds (and Gainsborough) gratis. He assisted his brother William, dined with Smollett, sent Banks his paper about fish’s ears, and was friends with Hume, Franklin and Haydn (offering to operate on Haydn, Haydn declined).

William Cheselden

1688 (Somerby, England) – 1752 (Bath)

Cheselden did much to raise surgery to a profession, and published an influential anatomy of the human body (written in English instead of the usual Latin, and with each bone in the adult skeleton reproduced life-size). Sloane and Pope were good friends, and Haller met him when he visited London. He studied under Cowper, gave surgical training to Hunter, and helped look after Newton during his final illness, advising against invasive surgery.

William Cheselden knew…

Bernhard Siegfried Albinus

1697 (Frankfurt [Oder], Germany) – 1770 (Leiden, Netherlands)

Albinus (born Weiss) studied, precociously, under Boerhaave in Leiden, and under Winsløw in Paris. Boerhaave recruited him as an academic colleague; together they edited classic works of Vesalius and Harvey. Albinus’s fame rests primarily on the unprecedented graphic accuracy of his anatomical atlas, undertaken with the artist Jan Wandelaar. Haller was one of Boerhaave’s and Albinus’s students, as was Pringle.

Jacob B. Winsløw

Jacques-Bénigne Winslow

1669 (Odense, Denmark) – 1760 (Paris)

Probably the leading anatomist of the 18th century, particularly noted for his recognition of the central nervous system, Winsløw produced the first treatise of purely descriptive (i.e., rigorously scientific) anatomy. Buffon got him a job at the Jardin du Roi: Haller and Albinus, later so influential themselves, both studied under him. Fauchard, often described as the father of modern dentistry, was a close professional colleague.

Jacob B. Winsløw knew…

Giovanni Battista Morgagni

1682 (Forlì, Italy) – 1771 (Padua)

Morgagni was a founder of modern pathology; his magnum opus, immensely influential, was translated into the major European languages. Valsalva was one of his teachers — their friendship was critical to Morgagni’s career, Morgagni assisting then succeeding him, and editing his works. Boerhaave, Réaumur and Haller (who called him his master) were among his correspondents, and Scarpa probably the most notable of his students. Incidentally, Lorenzo da Ponte attended his last series of lectures and later told ‘many charming stories’ about him; suggesting (though it is unclear) a genuine mutual connection.

Giovanni Battista Morgagni knew…

Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

1752 (Gotha, Germany) – 1840 (Göttingen)

Blumenbach effectively invented anthropology and (with Vicq d’Azyr) comparative anatomy; some later followers ignored his increasingly enlightened ideas about racial classification. As a student he was employed by Heyne (his future brother-in-law) to organise his natural history collection. Haller was a mentor, Goethe and Kant friends (Blumenbach refuted Kant’s ideas of European superiority), as were Lichtenberg and Forster (who together published important work of his). He taught Humboldt, Sömmering and Lawrence; Coleridge also met him and attended his lectures. Banks, another friend, sent him skulls for his collection.

Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring

Samuel Thomas von Soemmerring

1755 (Thorn, Prussia, now Toruń, Poland) – 1830 (Frankfurt am Main)

Blumenbach (a real friend) and Lichtenberg taught Sömmerring; Heyne was another long-term Göttingen connection. His work on cranial nerves as a 23-year-old remains valid, two centuries later. Sömmerring met Forster (becoming close friends) and Hunter in London, and Camper in Friesland. Forster, now in Kassel, arranged a professorship in anatomy for him there (they later fell out as neighbours in Mainz). Sömmerring got to know his lifelong correspondent Goethe through a shared interest in comparative anatomy, and famously sent him an elephant’s skull. Kant, ignoring its philosophical discrepancies, wrote an afterword for his essay on the soul.

Félix Vicq d’Azyr

1748 (Valognes, France) – 1794 (Paris)

Daubenton taught and strongly influenced him. He was a family friend of Fourcroy’s, and encouraged him to study medicine (they became fellow-students). Blumenbach was an important collaborator — they effectively invented comparative anatomy as a systematic science. D’Alembert gave him an Italian work about public health; he got it published in French, and helped change public opinion about the unhealthiness of burial-grounds. Turgot, Condorcet and Lavoisier were all friends; brought in by Turgot, his radical approach to epidemic cattle-plague (not to mention his pioneering of epidemiology) is what really made his name.