Adriaan van den Spiegel
Adriaan van den Spiegel (or Spieghel), name also written as Spieghel, Spigel, Adrianus Spigelius, Spiegelius, Adriano Spigeli. He was a Flemish anatomist and botanist, born 1578, in Brussels; died April 7, 1625, in Padua, Italy. Adriaan van den Spiegel was the son and grandson of surgeons. His father was a surgeon and Inspector General of military and naval surgeons of the Dutch republic. His father died in 1600. The family was probably well off, however, and both Adriaan and his brother Gijsbertus studied medicine. He studied at Louvain and Leiden and later at Padua, where he registered in 1601. There is no record of a degree from Padua, but it appears probable. Both Favaro and Biographie nationale speak explicitly of a medical degree. Within this text was included the first instructions on making dried herbarium specimens – a technique that had only come into practice during the previous 50 years.
At Padua he studied under Hieronymus Fabricius ad Aquapendente (1537-1619) and Giulio Casserio (1561-1616) and probably graduated in 1603. Government 1606, appointed physician to the students of the Germanic Nation in Padua. For much of his career he practiced medicine in Padua, and is considered one of the great physicians associated with the city.
In this period Spiegel probably assisted Fabrici in his private practice. There is documentary evidence that he practiced in Padua during both periods when he was there. Favaro indicates, from this evidence, that his practice was not extensive, however. He accompanied the old man on a trip to Florence to treat a Medici prince, and on another to Venice, where Fabrici gave a consultation. During these years Spiegel studied botany and wrote an introduction to the science, Isogoge in rem herbariam libri duo (1606), which he dedicated to the students of the Natio Germanica.
In 1607 he competed for the chair of practical medicine at Padua, left vacant by the death of Ercole Sassonia (1551-1607). The German nation, at Spiegel’s request, recommended him to the Riformatori for the position, but Spiegel did not get the chair. Spiegel left Padua in 1612. After a brief stay in Belgium he traveled through Germany and settled in Bohemia, where he was medicus primarius of Bohemia. Favaro renders this as protomedicus, that is, medical examiner, which was an official position.
In 1616, he was appointed to chair of anatomy and surgery at Padua. He had been nominated to this position by the Venetian patrician, Giustiniani, Venetian ambassador to the emperor in Prague when Spiegel was there. Spiegel attracted many foreign students to his public performances in the famous theatre at Padua.
On January 25, 1623, he was elected knight of Saint Marcus. He died two years later after an illness of some six weeks. Spiegel earned enough to dower his daughter with 4,000 ducats, but Favaro indicates that he did not leave a large fortune, in contrast to some other physicians. Spiegel is considered by historians to be the last of the great Paduan anatomists.
His best written work on anatomy is De humani corporis fabrica libri X tabulis aere icisis exornati, published posthumously in 1627. He borrowed the title from De humani corporis fabrica, written by his fellow countryman, Vesalius, who had also studied in Padua. The book was intended as an update in medical thinking (a century later) about anatomy. In his 1624 treatise De semitertiana libri quatuor, he gave the first comprehensive description of malaria.
His name is given to the Spiegelian line (Linea semilunaris) and the Spiegelian fascia, which refers either to the combined aponeuroses of the external abdominal oblique muscle, the internal abdominal oblique muscle and transversus abdominis muscle, or just the aponeurosis of the transversus abdominis. An uncommon hernia of the Spiegelian fascia that he first described is called a “Spigelian hernia”. The caudate lobe of the liver is also known as Spiegel’s lobe.
Primarily, he worked in the fields of Botany, Medicine, and Anatomy. He also worked in the fields of Embryology and Physiology to a lesser degree. His first book was Isagoge in rem herbariam (1606). He later published works on the tapeworm and on malaria. He composed a great work on anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica, published posthumously in 1627. He left behind a manuscript (also published posthumously) on embriology, De formatu foetu. His works on anatomy are filled with passages on physiology.The genus Spigelia (containing about 60 species) is named after him. Traditionally, the rhizome and roots of Spigelia marilandica were used as a cure for intestinal parasites.
Above: Adriaan van den Spiegel, De humani corporis fabrica libri decem, Frankfurt a. M.: Impensis & Caelo Matthaei Meriani, 1632, frontispiece, intaglio, plate size 18.4 x 14.8 cm, K.9.8.
His anatomical work was published posthumously and contained plates designed by Casserio. This frontispiece is full of references to the Fabrica, starting with the title: Ten books on the fabric of the human body by Adrian Spiegel of Brussels, Knight of St Mark, one time first professor of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua, supplied with 98 very elegant engravings, never before seen. Vesalius’s Seven books on the fabric of the human body was now expanded to ten books.
At the top centre of Spiegel’s front piece, seated in front of a drapery bearing the word ‘anatomia’, is the female personification of anatomy, holding a mirror and a skull, suggesting perhaps self-knowledge and mortality. To her left is the personification of ‘diligence’ holding instruments in her hands, and to the right is ‘ingenium’ with a scepter and sun, perhaps signifying dominion of knowledge over darkness of ignorance. Flanking the book title held up by two putti are figures recognizable from the Fabrica, the skeleton with a spade, and a myological figure with one foot placed forward. At the base of the left-hand column is a monkey and a pig to the right, animals that were dissected by Galen as well as Vesalius. In the middle of the floor is a table with ‘anatomical instruments’, again a reminder of the table full of instruments Vesalius had shown.
This frontispiece was designed by Odorato Fialetti (1573-1638), a painter and print-maker who had apprenticed with Giovanni Battista Cremonini at Bologna and also worked with Tintoretto at Venice. Francesco Valegio, a print-maker and printer who was active in Venice between 1598 and 1627, engraved the design.
References and Further Reading:
- Who Named It?
- University of Cambridge
- Historical Anatomies
- Biodiversity Library: here you can look at his book
- National Library of Medicine: the book can also be viewed here in a different format
- Galileo Project
- The Full Wiki
- Wiki Visually
- Pedia View