Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

rent of popular Prejudice, as he was equally qualified for a Profession, not indeed of equal Dignity or Importance, but which must undoubtedly claim the sacred Place among those which are of the greatest Benefit to Mankind.

He therefore applied himself to his medicinal Studies with fresh Ardour and Alacrity, reviewed all his former Obfervations and Inquiries, and was continually employed in making new Acquisitions.

Having now qualified himself for the Practice of Fhyfic, he began to visit Patients, but without that Encouragement which others, not equally deserving, have sometimes met with : His Business was at first not great, and his Circumstances by no Means easy; but, still superior to any Discouragement, he continued his Search after Knowledge, and determined, that Prosperity, if ever he was to enjoy it, should be the Consequence, not of mean Art or disingenuous Solicitations, but of real Me. rit and solid Learning.

His steady Adherence to his Resolutions appears yet more plainly from this Circumstance: He

was, while yet he remained in this unpleasing Situation, invited by one of the first Favourites of King William the Third, to settle at the Hague upon very advantageous Conditions, but declined the Offer: For having no Ambition but after Knowledge, he was defirous of living at Liberty, without any Restraint upon his Looks, his Thoughts, or his Tongue, and at the utmost Distance from all Contentions and state Parties. His Time was wholly taken up in visiting the Sick, Itudying, making chymical Experiments, searching into every Part of Medicine, with the utmost Diligence, teaching the Mathematicks, and reading the Scriptures, and those Authours who profess to teach a certain Method of loving God.

This was his Method of living to the Year 1701, when he was recommended by Mr. Vanberg to the

University,

University, as a proper Person to succeed Drelin. court in the Office of Lecturer on the Institutes of Phyfic, and elected without any Solicitation on his Pari, and almost without his Conient on the 18th of May.

On this Occasion having observed, with Grief, that Hippocrates, whom he regarded not only as the Father, but as the Prince of Physicians, was not fufficiently read or esteemed by young Students, he pronounced an Oration, De commendando Studio Hippocratico; by which he restored that great Author to his just and antient Reputation.

He now began to read public Lectures with great Applause, and was prevailed upon by his Audience to enlarge his original Design, and instruct them in Chymistry.

This he undertook not only to the great Advan. tge of his Pupils, but to the great Improvement of the Art itseif, which had hitherto been treated only in a confused and irregular Alanner, and was little more than a History of Particular Experiments, not reduced to certain Principles nor connected one with another. This vast Chaos he reduced to Order, and made that clear and cafy, which was before to the last Degree perplexed and obscure.

His Reputation began now to bear some Proportion to his Merit, and extended itself to diftant Üni. versities ; so that in 1703 the Professorship of Physic being vacant at Groningen, he was invited thither, but he chose to continue his present Course of Life, and therefore refused to quit Leyden.

This Invitation and Refusal being related to the Governors of the University of Leyden, they had fo grateful a Sense of his Regard for them, that they immediately voted an hanorary Increase of his Salary, and promised him the first Profefforship that biould be vacani.

On this Occasion he pronounced an Oration upon the Use of Mechanics in the Science of Phy

fic; in which he endeavoured to recommend a rational and 'mathematical inquiry into the Causes of Difcases and the Structure of Bodies; and to fhew the Folly and Weakness of the Jargon introduced by Paraceljur, Helmont, and other chymical Enthusiasts, who have obtruded idle Dreams upon the World, and instead of enlightening their Readers with explicating of Nature, have darkened the plainest Appearances, and be wildered Mankind in Error and Obfcurity,

Boerhaave had now for nine Years read Physical Lectures, but without the Title or Dignity of a Profeffor, when, by the Death of Profeffor Hotten, the Profefforship of Physic and Botany fell to him of Course.

On this Occasion he afferted the Simplicity and Facility of the Science of Phyfic, in Opposition to those who think that Obscurity contributes to the Dignity of Learning, and that to be admired it is neceffary not to be understood.

His Profession of Botany made it a Part of his Duty to superintend the physical Garden, which he improved so much by the immense Number of new Plants which he procured, that it was inlarged to twice its original Extent.

In 1714 he was deservedly advanced to the highest Dignities of the University, and in the fame Year made Physician of St. Augustine's Hospital in Leyden, into which the Students are admitted twice a Week to learn the Practice of Phyfic.

This was of equal Advantage to the Sick and to the Students, for the Success of his Practice was the beft Demonstration of the Soundness of his Principles.

When he laid down his Office of Governor of the University, in 1715, he made an Oration upon the Subject “ of Attaining to Certainty in Natural Philosophy ;” in which he declares himself, in the trongest Terms, a Favourer of Experimental Know

ledge,

ledge, and reflects with just Severity upon those arrogant Philosophers who are too easily disgusted with the flow Methods of obtaining true Notions by frequent Experiments, and who, possessed with too high an Opinion of their own Abilities, rather chufe to consult their own Imaginations, than inquire into Nature ; and are better pleased with the delightful Amusements of forming Hypotheses, than the toilfome Drudgery of amatling Obfervations.

The Emptiness and Uncertainty of all those Systems, whether venerable for their Antiquity, or agreeable for their Novelty, he has evidently shewn ; and not only declared, but proved, that we are entirely Ignorant of the Principles of Things; and that all the knowledge we have is of such Qualities alone as are discoverable by Experience, or such as may be deduced from them by Mathematical Demonstration.

This Discourse, filled as it was with Piety, and a true Sense of the Greatness of the Supreme Being, and the Incomprehensibility of his Works, gave fuch Offence to a Professor of Franker, who having long entertained a high Efteem for Descartes, considered his Principles as the Bulwark of Orthodoxy, that he appeared in Vindication of his darling Authour, and complained of the Injury done him with the greatest Vehemence, declaring little less than that the Cartesian System and the Christian must inevitably stand and fall together; and that to say we were Ignorant of the Principles of Things, was not only to enlist among the Scepticks, but to fink into Atheism itself. So far can Prejudice darken the Understanding, as to make it consider precarious and uncertain Systems as the chief Support of facred and unvariable Truth.

This Treatment of Boerhaave was so far resented by the Governors of his University, that they procured from Franker a Recantation of the Invective that had been thrown out against him. This was

not

not only complied with, but Offers were made him of more ample Satisfaction, to which he returned anz Answer not less to his Honour than the Vićtory he gained : ! That he should think himself fulliciently

compensated, if his warned Adversary received no . farther Molestation on his Account.'

So far was this weak and injudicious Attack from shaking a Reputation, not casually raised by Fashion or Caprice, but founded upon folid Merit, that the fame Year his Correspondence was desired upon Botany and Natural Philosophy, by the Academy of Sciences at Paris, of which he was, upon the Death of Count Marsigli, in the Year 1728, elected a Member.

Nor were the French the only Nation by which this

great Man was courted and distinguifhed; for two Years after he was elected Fellow of our Royal Society

It cannot be doubted, but thus carefred and honoured with the highest and most publick Marks of Esteem by other Nations, he became more celebrated in his own University ; for Boerhaave was not one of those learned Men, of whom the World has feen too many, that disgrace their Studies by theit Vices, and by unaccountable Weakneffes make themfelves ridiculous at home, while their Writings prucure them the Veneration of distant Countries where their Learning is known, but not their Follies.

Not that his Countrymen can be charged with being insensible uf his Excellencies, till other Nations taught them to admire him; for in 1718 he was chosen to succeed de Mort in the Professorship of Chymistry, on which Occasion he pronounced an Oration, de Chymia errores suos expurgante ; in which he treated that Science with an Elegance of Style not often to be found in Chymical Writers, who seem generally to have affected not only a barbarous, but unintelligible Phrase, and, like the Pythagcreans of

old,

« AnteriorContinuar »