Who is Jan Swammerdam? Information on Jan Swammerdam biography, life story, contributions to science and works.
Jan Swammerdam; (1637-1680), Dutch scientist who was among the first to use the microscope effectively to discover minute animal and plant structures and functions.
Swammerdam was born in Amsterdam on Feb. 12, 1637. After studying at Leiden University and in France, he received a degree in medicine from Leiden in 1667 with a dissertation on the mechanics of human respiration. From then until 1673 he devoted himself chiefly to microscopic studies of various animals. He invented micropipettes and devised techniques for microdissection that enabled him to observe and describe many minute structures. For example, after injecting blood vessels with wax, he observed the delicate valves of the lymphatic system. He also observed capillaries and red corpuscles in the blood system and cell division and development in frogs, and he showed that muscles alter in shape but not in size during contraction.
Swammerdam also described and illustrated minute parts of crustacea, mollusks, worms, frogs, mammals, plants, and especially insects. His main contributions were descriptions of the minute anatomy of the mayfly and the bee. After studying their life histories, he classified insects according to their type of metamorphosis. His work on metamorphosis led him to favor the theory of preformation rather than the theory of epigenesis—as an explanation of how embryos develop into new individuals.
In 1673, in ill health and under the influence of Antoinette Bourignon, a popular religious mystic, Swammerdam abandoned scientific work. He died in Amsterdam on Feb. 17, 1680.