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Herman Boerhaave’s Neurology and the Unchanging Nature of Physiology

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Chapter Summary

In the early eighteenth century Herman Boerhaave was one of the most important medical teachers. It has been argued that his success was largely due to the fact that he managed to incorporate modern discoveries into the Hippocratic medicine taught at the university. The synthesis of ancient ideas and modern discoveries is clearly visible in Boerhaave's physiology of the brain and nerves. This chapter argues that (1) in Boerhaave's physiology of the brain and nerves the ancients and early-moderns were not opposed but offered complementary explanations, whereby it must be remarked that ancient concepts (for example, the sensorium commune) often received new meanings; and (2) that Boerhaave's neurological ideas ideally fitted the old, and essentially philosophical, discipline of physiology and that, for this reason, we cannot in the case of Boerhaave's neurology speak of a 'changing concept of physiology' in the Early Modern period.

Keywords:brain; Herman Boerhaave; Hippocratic medicine; nerves; neurological; Neurology; Physiology; sensorium commune



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