Biography of Gaspard Bauhin
Gaspard Bauhin the most famous of a family spanning six generations of physicians and natural scientists. He was the younger brother of Jean Bauhin (1541-1613), a physician and botanist, and son of Jean Bauhin (1511-1582), a French protestant physician and surgeon from Amiens, who sought refuge from religious persecution by settling in Basel in 1541 and became attached to the university.
From childhood he was taught anatomy by his father and botany by his brother Jean – almost twenty year his senior – who became a botanist of some repute. In 1572 Gaspard entered the University of Basel, where Felix Platter (1536-1614) and Theodor Zwinger the Elder (1533-1588) were among his teachers, studying botany besides anatomy/medicine. He received the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy in 1575, and conducted his first medical disputation in 1577.
Travelling young physician
In October 1577 Bauhin went to Padua, where for eighteen months he studied anatomy with the Italian anatomist Girolamo Fabricius (Hieronymus Fabricius ab Aquapendente, 1537-1619). He saw seven bodies dissected "and even assisted myself in the private dissections." He also attended the teaching of Marco degli Oddi (1526-1591) and Emilio Campolongo (1550-1604) at the Hospital St. Francis, and probably that of Melchior Wieland (Melchiore Guillandini, 1519 or 1520-1589) in the botanical garden.
He then travelled all over Italy, visited Bologna and received instruction in anatomy from Giulio Cesare Aranzi (1530-1589), before going to Montpellier, where he signed the register in the spring of 1579. But by his own account he spent more time in Paris attending the anatomy sessions conducted by Sévérin Pineau (ca. 1550-1619), professor of anatomy and surgery, "whom I assisted in dissecting at his request." In May 1580 he was in Tübingen.
Doctor of medicine and professor of Greek
Early in 1581 Bauhin returned to Basel, where "at the urgent request of the College of Physicians, I began to dissect bodies." He held his first public anatomy on February 27, when he, under the guidance of Felix Platter, in 1581 conducted the section of a male body in the presence of some 70 spectators. This spectacle, lasting five days, is all the more remarkable, as for the last ten years no sections had been executed. Bauhin held his doctoral disputation on the subject of De dolore colico, on April 19. He was conferred doctor of medicine on May 2, and on May 13 he was made a member of the faculty of medicine.
From that time he taught both anatomy and botany, and for good measure was made professor of Greek in 1582. Two years later he became consilarius in the Faculty of Medicine, an office he held until his death. He was dean of the faculty nine times, beginning in 1586, and four times rector of the university; 1592, 1598, 1611, 1619.
In 1589 - while still a professor of Greek - he was appointed professor of anatomy and botany, holding public anatomies in the winter and taking the students on botanical expeditions in the summer. As a result of his efforts, work was begun on a permanent theatre for anatomical demonstrations, and a botanical garden was laid out. In September 1589 he was rewarded by the creation of a special chair in anatomy and botany. During these years Bauhin's private medical practice grew, and in 1597 (1596?), with his brother, he was appointed personal physician to Duke Friedrich of Württemberg (1557-1608).
Although Bauhin made no major original contributions in anatomy, he made an important contribution by introducing a much improved nomenclature of anatomy. His principles are partly still in use. Especially by the designation of muscles he introduced new, more logical designations.
He himself believed that he was the first to describe the ileocecal valve, which was long known as the valvula Bauhini; and in a number of his anatomical writings he gives an account of how he first found it during a private dissection that he performed as a student in Paris in 1579. There is no doubt that Bauhin's contribution as a teacher of anatomy was considerable.
His book Theatrum anatomicum became a very popular text because it was systematic, provided adequate coverage of the ancient authorities did not dwell too much on the controversies, had useful footnotes, mentioned anatomical anomalies, and gave pathological findings. He is credited with giving the name of areole to the pigmented area around the nipple. Bauhin was also active in the field of dentistry, but let himself be strongly influenced by the writings of Galen and Aristotle.
In the field of botany he left a large number of writings. He became famous as a pioneer in botanical classification and in 1623 published his work Pinax theatri botanica, the most recognised of the earlier works trying to name and catalogue all known plants. Altogether he described 6,000 species. He is also remembered for separating botany from material medica. In Pinax he discarded the old alphabetical manner of enumeration and stated that any sound method of classification must be based on affinities. Consequently, he distinguished between genus and species and introduced a system of binominal nomenclature. His botanical work was commemorated by Charles Plumier (1646-1704), who gave the name Bauhinia to a family of tropical trees; and Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, 1707-1778), in memory of both Gaspard and his brother Jean, called one species of this family Bauhinia bijuga.
After the death of Felix Platter in 1614 Bauhin succeeded his teacher as archiator (chief medical officer) to the city of Basel, and the following year was appointed professor of practical medicine
He was married three times: In 1581 to Barbara Vogelmann of Montbéliard, by whom he had one daughter; in 1596 to Maria Bruggler of Bern; and sometimes after 1597 to Magdalena Burckhardt, by whom he had two daughters and one son, Jean Gaspard (1606-1685), who succeeded his father as professor of anatomy and botany in 1629 and became professor of the practice of medicine in 1660. In 1658 Jean Gaspard published the first volume, all that was ever published of the intended twelve, of his father's Theatrum botanicum.
Bauhin was a truly original scientist whose influence in both anatomy and botany lasted for well over a century. His great merit was his ability to treat his subject in an orderly and methodical manner, for he had a capacity to think clearly and an ability to work without tiring. Quiet and reserved, he can be remembered in William Harvey's (1578-1657)) words concerning him: "a rare industrious man."