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CRAANEN, Theodor

Tractatus physico-medicus   Leyden P. Vander Aa 1689

4to [xvi], 765, [51] pp. Title page in red and black with engraved vignette, engraved headpiece with the coat of arms of the Prince d'Orange e Nassau Guglielmo Enrico, folding copperplate portrait of the author engraved by A. Blooteling, and 38 copperplates (23 folding). Contemporary calf spine and corners quite worn; small tears to some plates where folded, text browned throughout, 2 contemporary ownership signatures on the fly-leaf. $650.00

First edition. Craanen, an advocate and avid defender of Cartesian philosophy, viewed the human body as a closed system of tubes, levers and pumps. He compares the body to a clock; the harmonious functioning of the organism ("oeconomia animalis") is explained from the corpuscular structure of the body and the movement of the component particles.

The text, as well as the exquisite engravings, expounds on Craanen's mechanical explanation of physical functioning. He supports the theory of blood circulation described by Harvey in 1628 as a benefit of the mechanical interpretation of the body, the design of liquid flowing through a closed tube system. Another example is digestion, which can be explained by the laws of mechanics, wherein every unit ultimately ends up exactly where it is supposed to be. Craanen's approach to health is congruous with that of the iatrophysical school, developed in the seventeenth century, which explained physical processes in mechanical or mathematical terms. Of great interest, Craanen also argues in favor of the concept that the fetus is breathing independently in the womb, a view that was derided by many contemporaries.

Craanen (1621-1689) attended the University of Utrecht where he studied under Henricus Reguis, himself an advocate of Cartesian philosophy before splitting with him on the question of dualism. He continued his studies at the University of Leiden and the University of Duisburg, where he earned a doctorate of medicine, and where, in 1657, he was appointed professor of medicine. He went on to teach both medicine and mathematics there and at Leyden. Based upon his defense of Descartes, he began a long-term correspondence with Leibniz. Craanen's students included Albinus, Steven Blankaart and Theodore Schoen, among others.


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