*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 23rd of September 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Consider this your regular reminder that Christians need not fear the Enlightenment. There is nothing inherently wrong or scary in the advancements in medicine and philosophy (among other disciplines) between the 17th and 19th centuries. One of the earliest Weekend Editions was me giving a condensed form of a lecture that I used to integrate into my upper division course on the Enlightenment. Today on the almanac, we remember one of the most influential teachers and practitioners of medicine in this time period- the onetime chair of Medicine, Chemistry and Botany at the University of Leiden: Herman Boerhaave.

Herman Boerhaave was born in Voorhout, outside of Leiden in the Netherlands, in 1668. As a teenager, his family moved into the city so that he could get regular treatment for a growth on his thigh. The doctors were unable to cure him, but using his own urine and various salts, he was able to cure himself. Like his father, he wanted to become a pastor, but this was not to be. His father died the following year.

Nevertheless, Herman enrolled at the University of Leiden in 1684 to receive a degree in philosophy and theology in preparation for the ministry. He graduated in 1689 with a thesis on the mind/body problem discussed in the works of Descartes earlier that century.

The story is told that he got into a heated philosophical argument and was accused of following Baruch Spinoza- for a would-be pastor, this was a deadly blow. Spinoza was considered an arch-heretic (and by standards of Protestant orthodoxy, certainly was). Herman tried to plead his case, but the consistories refused him ordination.

Instead, he went to the University of Hardwicjk to study medicine. He received his degree in 1693 at the age of 24.

Back in Leiden, he was appointed a lecturer in medicine in 1701 at the age of 32. He was almost instantly recognized as a peerless lecturer. His notes and writings would be collected and published, as were his aphorisms and prayers.

In 1708 he was named chair of both medicine and botany. He had no training in the latter, but his work in the field attracted Carl Linnaeus to visit him (Linnaeus was the taxonomist of the age, he would name a flower after Boerhaave). He also counted the Czar of Russia and Voltaire as men who sought him out for advice.

He would go on to be named chair of Chemistry as well- three of the five chairs in the school of the Sciences were held by one man- a testament to his abilities and popularity.

He is considered one of the founders of modern medicine- so many of his students would leave Leiden to start medical schools across Europe and took his methods with them. These included:

The use of a Fahrenheit thermometer on humans for diagnosis. The close examination of patients- for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plans. He is said to have been particularly adept in his bedside manner- figuring out family history and observing different treatments (you wonder what part of this came from his frustration with doctors who couldn’t cure him as a teenager). He furthermore encouraged the use of post-mortem examinations to understand the disease better.

To a modern person, it might seem almost unthinkable that these basic procedures were not commonplace- applying the scientific method to medicine. Still, of course, this manner of observation (hypothesis, experiment, theses, etc.) is the fruit of the Enlightenment. And it was Herman Boerhaave, a man who was barred from becoming a minister that would embody enlightenment medicine at its best.

In 1938 the Netherlands recognized this pioneer in medicine with a stamp to commemorate his death 200 years prior on this, on the 23rd of September in 1738.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Ephesians 2:

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 23rd of September 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man with questions about Herman’s self-cure… he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man finishing up the Weekend Edition for tomorrow- it’s a good one. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.