Academic genealogies II

December 28, 2007

Several weeks ago I wrote about some aspects of my academic genealogy. I have continued to investigate, and happily I have discovered more details, including whole new genealogical branches. Today I am going to discuss a portion of my new findings.

In this research I have been greatly helped by a few online resources such as

  • SPIRES HepNames : provides links between students and advisors, with a focus on physics, and a special focus on high energy physics (HEP).
  • Mathematics Genealogy Project : provides details about nationality, thesis titles, and student-advisor relationships, with a focus on mathematics.
  • Chemical Genealogy : an especially valuable resource for the quality of its documentation; provides details about the year in which people obtained degrees, as well as what degree they obtained; the focus is obviously on chemistry.
  • NeuroTree : a similar project that focuses on neuroscience, which is interpreted generously to include people with connections to medicine.

Where possible, I have also made use of other resources, most notably Wikipedia.

The last post explored a lineage derived from Otto Mencke (1644-1707) [UPDATE: Diagram]. One of the men in that line was Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858), who obtained his M.D. from Bonn in 1822. I had identified Müller’s advisor as Karl Asmund Rudolphi (1771-1832), but I have now learned that in fact Müller was, beginning in 1823, when already in possession of his degree, a research assistant of Rudolphi’s. That is fine with me; the relationship is still one of academic mentoring, and we can’t expect the student-advisor relationship to be always and everywhere the same as it is today. This leaves open the question, however, of who mentored Müller during his medical studies at Bonn. I have found a number of sources (such as this one and this one) that identify his advisor at that time as Philip Franz von Walther. This relationship sprouts another branch of my lineage. Let us begin with von Walther himself:

Philip Franz von Walther (1782-1849): Walther earned his M.D. in 1803 from Universität Landshut. He was a physician, a specialist in opthalmology, and wrote textbooks on surgery and physiology. In the course of his physiological studies he described the hardening of arterial valves.

Walther, like Müller before him, also seems to have studied under more than one person. I have found, in fact, that he also had two advisors: Johann Frank and Georg Beer. Today I shall discuss the line involving Johann Frank, leaving the other for a later post.

Johann Peter Frank (1745-1821): Frank obtained M.D. in 1766 from Heidelberg. Not much is known about him, but he is regarded as an early pioneer in the science of public health. He studied under Georg Gattenhof.

Georg Matthias Gattenhof (1722-1788): Gattenhof is another fairly obscure figure. He completed his M.D. in 1748 at Würzburg, after which he went to the university in Heidelberg, where he was professor of anatomy, physiology, and botany. He wrote a book describing the flora of Heidelberg. He was a student of Albrecht von Haller.

Victor Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777): Haller is one of the major figures in this genealogical branch. He was Swiss by birth, and showed early signs of having scholarly gifts: as a child he compiled Hebrew and Greek vocabularies, wrote Latin verse, and tried his hand at translating Virgil. His turn toward medicine was accompanied by an interest in anatomy, physiology, and botany. He was an accomplished anatomist, and many anatomical features are named for him. He wrote a popular physiology textbook, and compiled multi-volume surveys of physiological knowledge. In botany, he was a main opponent of the system of nomenclature proposed by Carl Linneaus, though I have been unable to discover the arguments he offered against it. Though his career in medicine was distinguished, he did not forsake his early passion for languages and humanistic learning. He wrote a long hexametric poem entitled “Die Alpen” that extolled the virtues of the natural world, and made him an important poetic voice in German literature of the early eighteenth century. Late in life he turned to fiction, writing three philosophical romances on the principles of government, as well as religious works against the French Enlightenment thinkers. This year the 300th anniversary of his birth is being marked by the Swiss government, with exhibitions, a conference, and even a play!

In his youth, Haller was an ambitious student, and he travelled through much of Western Europe to find good teachers. The various resources I have consulted indicate that he studied under at least seven different men: Hermann Boerhaave and Bernhard Albinus in Leiden, Johann Duvernoy and Elias Camerarius in Tübingen, Henri François le Dran and Jacob Winslow in Paris, and Johannes Bernoulli in Basel. The main relationship is with Boerhaave, under whom Haller obtained his M.D. in 1727 (Thesis: Dissertatio inauguralis sistens experimenta et dubia circa ductum salivalem novum Coschwizianum), but I have no particular reason to discount the others. For instance, he may have studied under Boerhaave to learn medicine, but he studied under Bernoulli to learn mathematics. In the absence of a good reason to do otherwise, I hope to follow up each of the branches created by these relationships. Today, however, I shall limit myself to just those rooted at Tübingen. The branch to Elias Camerarius Jr. is quite short:

Elias Rudolph Camerarius, Jr. (1673-1734): The younger Camerarius was a physician and professor of medicine at the University of Tübingen. Apparently he had an abiding interest in mysticism and medical esoterica, and was especially opposed to efforts to explain physiological behaviour mechanically. This places him outside the main line of historical development of the subject, but it does add a welcome splash of colour to my family tree. He obtained his M.D. in 1691, studying under his father.

Elias Rudolph Camerarius, Sr. (1641-1695): The elder Camerarius was professor of medicine at Tübingen, obtaining his M.D. in 1663 from the same institution. He is remembered for his studies of skull fractures, heart palpitations, and the medicinal use of plants. Regrettably, I have been unable to learn who mentored Camerarius, so this branch comes to an end.

The second person under whom Haller studied at Tübingen was Johann Duvernoy:

Johann Georg Duvernoy (1691-1759): Duvernoy was a German anatomist and botanist. In his anatomical studies he described rare animals such as the lion, leopard, and elephant, and he demonstrated that bones from a mammoth belonged to a creature distinct from the modern elephant. As a botanist, he described the native flora of Tübingen. Sources differ on the details of his education: in 1708 he studied for a time in Paris under Joseph Pitton de Tournefort; some sources claim that he received an M.D. in 1710 from Basel, others that he obtained the same degree in 1716 from Tübingen. In neither of the latter cases have I been able to discover reliable information about his advisors. As such, I shall pursue the one connection that does seem secure: to Tournefort.

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656-1708): Tournefort was a French botanist. He is remembered for having introduced the concept of genus into the classification of plants, preparing the way for the later work of Linnaeus. He visited the Middle East and wrote a popular account of his travels. Tournefort was killed when he was run down by a carriage in the cinquième arrondissement of Paris, on a street now named for him. It is not clear from my sources whether Tournefort ever held an advanced degree, but he is said to have studied in the early 1680s, at Montpellier, under Pierre Magnol.

Pierre Magnol (1638-1715): Magnol was a French botanist who studied and lived in Montpellier. It was he who introduced the concept of family into plant classification. He studied coral, and was the first to identify it as a living thing. He classified it as a plant, however, rather than an animal, an error for which I think he can be forgiven. The genus Magnolia is named for him (as is, by transitive relation, one of the best films of the past decade). Magnol obtained his M.D. in 1659 under Pierre Laugier.

Pierre Laugier: Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover much of Laugier, not even the dates of his birth and death. He acquired an M.D. in 1603 from Montpellier, where he studied with Richer de Belleval.

Pierre Richer de Belleval (1564-1632): Belleval was a botanist. He obtained his M.D. from Avignon in 1587, but worked in Montpellier, where, under royal patronage, he established a famous botanical garden for the growth of medicinal plants. He was one of the first to teach botany as a subject distinct from medicine, and made a careful study of the flora of the Languedoc region of France. Some sources list him as having studied under Guillaume Rondelet (1507-1566) at Montpellier, but a comparison of their dates makes this highly dubious. Another source states that he received a second M.D. from Montpellier in 1595, but I have been unable to discover any further details. It seems, therefore, that this trail has run cold.


I am delighted to have been able to trace this branch of my lineage back nearly a century further than the previous branch. Whereas the other branch was thoroughly German at its roots, this branch is French in origin. My exploration is incomplete, with numerous branches, off both Haller and Walther, yet to be pursued. These I shall consider at a later time.

UPDATE: Here is a diagram showing the lineage discussed thus far in this series.

2 Responses to “Academic genealogies II”

  1. […] to “Academic Genealogy: The von Haller Edition”. In a series of previous posts (I, II) I have been exploring my academic genealogy, and one of the men I encountered was Albrecht von […]

  2. […] genealogies IV March 13, 2008 In several previous posts (I, II, III) I have been exploring my academic genealogy. At the end of the last post I had two dangling […]

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