Main content

Gerard van Swieten dictata in materia medica


Held at: Library Company of Philadelphia [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Gerard van Swieten (1700-1772) was a Dutch-Austrian physician who served as the personal physician to Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in 1745 and transformed the Austrian health services as well as medical university education.

Born in Leiden, Gerard van Swieten obtained his education at the University of Leiden and was a student of one of the most respected physicians of the time, Hermann Boerhaave. After receiving his degree, van Sweiten lectured and became a respected physician in Leiden. Following the death of the Imperial Court physician, van Sweiten was asked to serve as the personal physician to Austrian Empress Maria Theresa and her family in Vienna.

In addition to his duties as court physician, van Sweiten focused his attention on reforming the Austrian health service and medical university education in Vienna. Through his efforts, "the teaching of lower-grade medical personnel such as midwives and barber-surgeons was improved, better-trained physicians were appointed at hospitals throughout Austria ... [and there was the] introduction of stringent control of sanitation by the State," (Kidd, page 448). Because of his efforts, the Vienna Medical School's prominence was established. He continued in his work both as physician to the Empress and her family, and in making sweeping reforms in medical education until his death in 1772. According to Kidd, "although he was an insightful scholar, a respectable scientist, and a gentle and devoted physician, it was his work in elevating the medical school of Austria into eminence that made his name renowned," (Kidd, page 449).


Kidd, Mark and Irvin M. Modlin. "Van Swieten and the Renaissance of the Vienna Medical School." World Journal of Surgery, 2001 (25): 444-450.

This collection consists of eight volumes of medical writings in Latin concerning nutrition, pharmacy, and surgery. Several pages at the beginning of Volume I, and a few pages elsewhere, are translated into English on the facing pages.

Library Company of Philadelphia
Finding Aid Date
2012 March 10
The creation of this collection level record was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use, on deposit at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. For access, please contact the Historical Society at 215-732-6200 or visit

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Library Company of Philadelphia with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest