- Petrus Camper
Peter, Pieter, or usually Petrus Camper (
May 11, 1722in Leiden– April 7, 1789in The Hague) was a Dutch anatomist, anthropologistand a naturalist, as well as a furniture maker, a sculptorand a patron of art. One of the first to interest himself in comparative anatomyand paleontology, he also invented the measure of the facial angle.
Studies and teaching
As the son of a local minister and a brilliant alumnus, he studied in the
University of Leidensciences, philosophy and drawing. His professors included Pieter van Musschenbroek(1669-1721) and Willem Jacob 's Gravesande(1688-1742) for physics and mathematics, Herman Boerhaave(1668-1738) and Hieronym David Gaubius(1705-1780) for medicine. Petrus Camper became doctor in medicine and philosophy at the same day at 24. After both his parents died then traveled to Prussia, England, Franceand Switzerland. He was offered sundry professorships, being first named professor of philosophy, anatomy and surgeryin 1750 in the University of Franeker.
Camper married the young and rich widow of a burgomaster from Harlingen. Starting in 1755, he resided in Amsterdam where he occupied a chair of anatomy and surgery at the
Athenaeum Illustre, later completed by a medicine chair. He retired five years later to dedicate himself to scientifical research and lived on her property, just outside Franeker. Three years later he chose, to accept the chair of anatomy, surgery and botancis at the University of Groningen. Camper started a surgical clinic and showed drawings to illustrate his eloquent lectures, before retiring in 1773. He was appointed as an ( orangist) burgomasterof Workumand in 1787 as a member of the state council of the Dutch Republic.
Among his many works, he studied
osteologyof birds and discovered the presence of air in the inner cavities of birds' skeletons. He also interested himself to the anatomy of the orangutan, demonstrating against contemporary theories that it was a different specie from the human being, and not simply a "degenerate" type of human. Petrus Camper published memoirs on hearing of fishes, the best form of shoes, rinderpest, rabids, building of dikes, etc. Petrus Camper was an associate of the French Academy of Sciencesand had an eulogy in his honour composed by Nicolas de Condorcetand Félix Vicq-d'Azyr.
One of the first scholar to study
comparative anatomy, Petrus Camper demonstrated the principle of correlation in all organisms by the mechanical exercise he called a "metamorphosis". In his 1778 lecture, "On the Points of Similarity between the Human Species, Quadrupeds, Birds, and Fish; with Rules for Drawing, founded on this Similarity," he metamorphosed a horse into a human being, thus showing the similarity between all vertebrates. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire(1772-1884) theorized this in 1795 as the "unity of organic composition," the influence of which is perceptible in all his subsequent writings; nature, he observed, presents us with only one plan of construction, the same in principle, but varied in its accessory parts. Camper's metamorphoses which demonstrated this "unity of Plan" greatly impressed Diderot and Goethe. In 1923 and 1939 some Dutch authors suggested that Camper foreshadowed Goethe's famous idea of "type" — a common structural pattern in some manner [ See Miriam Claude Meijer, ""Petrus Camper's Protean Performances: The Metamorphoses" [http://www.geocities.com/paris/chateau/6110/camper1.htm here] (with a drawing of Camper's animated metamorphose) - URL accessed on February 28, 2007 en icon ]
Petrus Camper is also known for his theory of the "facial angle" in connection with intelligence. The measuring of the facial angle claimed to determine intelligence among various species of animals. According to this technique, an angle is formed by drawing two lines: one horizontally from the
nostrilto the ear; and the other perpendicularly from the advancing part of the upper jawboneto the most prominent part of the forehead. Measuring this angle was thought to determine the intelligence of animals and human beings. One of the founders of scientific racismtheories, he claimed that antique Greco-Roman statues presented an angle of 90°, Europeans of 80°, Black people of 70° and the orangutan of 58°, thus displaying a hierarchic view of mankind, based on a decadent conception of history. These scientific racist researches were continued by Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire(1772-1844) and Paul Broca(1824-1880).
Camper, however, agreed with
Buffonin drawing a sharp line between human and animals (although he was misinterpreted by Diderot, who claimed that he was a supporter of the Great Chain of Beingtheory) Ann Thomson, [http://www.cromohs.unifi.it/8_2003/thomson.html Issues at stake in eighteenth-century racial classification] , " Cromohs", 8 (2003): 1-20 en icon] .
Georges Cuvier(1769-1832) praised his "genius eye" but criticized him for keeping himself to simple sketches ("Camper porta, pour ainsi dire en passant, le coup d'œil du génie sur une foule d'objets intéressants, mais presque tous ses travaux ne furent que des ébauches"). Petrus Camper's main works were:
* "Démonstrations anatomicx-pathologicœ",
Amsterdam, 1760-1762 ;
* "Dissertation sur les différences des traits du visage" ;
* "Discours sur l'art de juger les passions de l'homme par les traits de son visage" ;
* "Dissertation sur les variétés naturelles de l'espèce humaine". [« Petrus Camper », in the 1878 edition of
Marie-Nicolas Bouilletand Alexis Chassang(dir.), "Dictionnaire universel d'histoire et de géographie", 1878.]
In 1888, the son of the last female descendant of Petrus Camper petitioned the Dutch crown for a name change to honor his mother, Theodora Aurelia Louisa Camper (1821-1890). The petition was granted by Royal Decree No. 15; and the descendants of Abraham Adriaan Aurelius Gerard Camper-Titsingh Sr. (1845-1910) and Abraham Adriaan Aurelius Gerard Camper-Titsingh Jr. (1889-1974) live today in the United States. ["Nederland's Patriciaat", Vol. 13 (1923).]
The Dutch author, Thomas Rosenboom, used Petrus Camper as a character in his novel, "Gewassen vlees" (1994). [Rosenboom, Thomas. (2004). [http://boeken.vpro.nl/boeken/29508445/ "Gewassen vlees."] ]
* "Demonstrationes anatomico- pathologicae [1760-1762]
* "On the Best Form of Shoe"
* "On the Points of Similarity between the Human Species, Quadrupeds, Birds, and Fish; with Rules for Drawing, founded on this Similarity" (1778)
* "Historiae literariae cultoribus S.P.D. Petrus Camper. A list of his work, published by him self.
* "Works on natural history", a translation of Camper's work, published by
Hendrik Jansenin 1803 in three in-octavovolumes.
* Bouillet, Marie-Nicolas Bouillet and Alexis Chassang. (1878). "Dictionnaire universel d'histoire et de géographie."
* Meijer, Miriam Claude. [http://www.geocities.com/paris/chateau/6110/camper1.htm "Petrus Camper's Protean Performances: The Metamorphoses"] (English)
* "Nederland's Patriciaat." Vol. 13 (1923). Den Haag.
* Rosenboom, Thomas. (2004). "Gewassen vlees." Amsterdam:
Querido. 10-ISBN 9-021-47988-5
* Thomson, Ann. "Issues at Stake in Eighteenth-century Racial Classification," Cromohs, 8 (2003): 1-20 (English)
* [http://www.rug.nl/museum/geschiedenis/hoogleraren/camper Rijksuniversiteit Groningen]
* [http://www.fmed.uba.ar/depto/anatomia/camper.htm Painting by Tibout Regters with Camper and colleagues in the Guild]
* [http://odur.let.rug.nl/magazijn/linkpagina's/mengelwerk/raarekiek/petrus_camper.htm University of Groningen on Camper]
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