Bernhardus Albinus

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Bernhardus Friedrich Albinus (1653-1721)

Bernhardus Albinus, one of the most famous physicians of his time, was born on 7 January 1653 in Dessau, in the principality of Anhalt, where his father, Christoforus Albinus, was the mayor. His true ancestral name, Weiss, was changed to Albinus in the 16th century, after the fashion of the time, changed by his ancestor Petrus Weiss, poet and historian. In his youth, he coupled a weak body to a strong mind, which was the reason that his father first let him be educated at home by a capable teacher, and only after he had strengthened, was sent to the public school of his city. When the scientist Hendrik Alers, head of the school, was called to the famous school of Bremen in 1669, Albinus joined him. He studied with unusual vigour sciences and languages, especially physics and philosophy. From Bremen he went to the University of Leiden, where he studies medicine under Carolus Drelincourt, Lucas Schacht and Theodorus Cranen.

In 1676 he returned to Dessau, and subsequently traveled through the Netherlands, Brabant and France, where he collected a vast amount of knowledge of medicine, anatomy and surgery. He returned to Dessau in the summer of 1680, passing through Lorraine, following the Rhine, and through Holland. That same year he was promoted to professor in medicine at the University of Frankfurt on the Oder, where he started working on 13 January 1681, even though he only became a Doctor on 16 April of the following year. Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg appointed him as his personal physician and geheimrat, which he stayed both until the death of the King on 26 April 1688, after which he returned to Frankfort as a professor.

Six years later, the government of the University of Groningen offered him the function of Provincial Doctor and professor of medicine, with a salary of 1200 Dutch guilder. Even though he was pleased with the offer, he was prevented from accepted it because of the promises and gifts from Frederick I of Prussia, son and successor of Frederick William I, who increased his yearly income with 600 guilder and in 1697 not only appointed him as his personal physician but also offered him a canonry in Magdeburg, an honorary title which he sold with the approval of the king, because he couldn't fuflill it in person.

After Albinus had been the personal physician of Frederick I for five years, the governors of the University of Leiden offered him in 1702 the function of professor of theoretical and practical medicine with positive and honourable conditions, which he accepted with the consent of the king. After the king had given him a valuable golden medal with his effigy, he left with his family to Holland, followed by a large number of German students. With a speech on the origin and progress of medicine, he accepted the position on 19 October of said year, which he filled studiously and faithfully, to the glory of the university, until his death on 7 September 1721.

In 1696 he married Susanna Catharina Rings, daughter of Thomas Siegfried Rings, professor of law in Frankfurt, with whom he had eleven children, four sons and seven daughters. Of those, two sons became a professor in Leiden and one in Utrecht, all with great fame. His epitaph was written by Herman Boerhaave and published as H. Boerhaavii Oratio Academica de vita et obitu B. Albini.

Among his writings are:

  • De corpusculis sanguine contentis
  • De Tarantulae mira vi
  • De sacro Freisenwaldensium fonte


This article incorporates text translated from the article "Bernhardus Albinus" in the Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden, a publication now in the public domain.