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Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738)

Hermann BoerhaaveHerman Boerhaave was born at Voorhout about 15 Km from Leyden in 1668; the son of a Dutch clergyman. He is regarded by many as one of the most influential surgeons of the early eighteenth century. He initially studied fine arts and obtained a PhD from the University of Leyden in 1690. He entered medicine at the University of Harderwyk and qualified in 1693. He remained in Leyden for almost all of his career and was appointed Professor of Medicine and Botany in 1709. Amongst his greatest contributions to medicine were the use of post-mortem examinations to find the cause of fatal illnesses and the use of the Fahrenheit thermometer in the clinical assessment of patients.

The syndrome that is named after him he described in 1724 when Grand Admiral of the Dutch Fleet and Prefect of Rhineland Baron J van Wassenaer died soon after developing chest and abdominal pain after vomiting on a full meal. Boerhaave performed a post-mortem and identified an oesophageal rupture with spillage of gastric contents into the mediastinum (Boerhaave's syndrome).

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