Theodor Zwinger

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Theodor Zwinger
Theodorus Zwingerus Basiliensis, medicus (détail).jpg
Theodor Zwinger[1]
Born2 August 1533
Died10 March 1588(1588-03-10) (aged 54)
Alma materUniversity of Basel
University of Lyon
University of Paris
University of Padua
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorBassiano Landi
Other academic advisorsThomas Platter
Petrus Ramus
Vettore Trincavelli
Gabriele Falloppio
Notable studentsPetrus Ryff
InfluencedThomas Moffet

Theodor Zwinger the Elder (2 August 1533 – 10 March 1588) was a Swiss physician and Renaissance humanist scholar. He made significant contributions to the emerging genres of reference and travel literature.[2] He was the first distinguished representative of a prominent Basel academic family.[3]

Life and work[edit]

Zwinger was the son of Leonhard Zwinger, a furrier who had become a citizen of Basel in 1526. His mother was Christina Herbster, the sister of Johannes Oporinus (Herbster) the famed humanist printer. After Zwinger's father's death, Christina married the noted humanist Conrad Lycosthenes (Wolffhart).

Zwinger studied at the Universities of Basel, Lyon, and Paris before taking a doctorate in medicine at the University of Padua with Bassiano Landi, the successor of Johannes Baptista Montanus.[4] In Paris he studied with the iconoclastic philosopher Petrus Ramus. He joined the faculty of the University of Basel as a member of the consilium facultatis medicae from 1559. At Basel he held successively chairs in Greek (1565), Ethics (1571), and finally theoretical medicine (1580).[5] While originally hostile to Paracelsus, in his later career he took an interest in Paracelsian medical theory for which he experienced some hostility. He associated with Paracelsians such as Thomas Moffet and Petrus Severinus.[6]

Zwinger was the editor of the early encyclopedia Theatrum Humanae Vitae (editions 1565, 1571, 1586, 1604). The work is considered "perhaps the most comprehensive collection of knowledge to be compiled by a single individual in the early modern period."[7] He was able to draw on the knowledge base of his stepfather Conrad Lycosthenes in compiling the Theatrum Humanae Vitae.

Zwinger's son, Jakob Zwinger, briefly served as his successor as editor of the Theatrum. His descendant Theodor Zwinger the Younger (1597–1654) was a prominent preacher and theology professor.


Title page, Methodus apodemica (Basel 1577)


  1. ^ Source. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb00033227-3
  2. ^ Howard, C.M. (1914). English Travellers of the Renaissance. Burt Franklin Publisher. p. 26. ISBN 9780833717450. Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  3. ^ « Auszug Stamm Zwimmer frühe Generationen » — family tree.
  4. ^ Theodor Zwinger at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ Miescher, Friedrich (1860), Die medizinische Facultät in Basel und ihr Aufschwung unter F. Plater und C. Bauhin: mit dem Lebensbilde von Felix Plater: zur vierten Säcularfeier der Universität Basel, 6. September 1860. Basel: Schweighauser. pp. 18–19.
  6. ^ Shackelford, Jole, A Philosophical Path for Paracelsian Medicine: The Ideas, Intellectual Context, and Influence of Petrus Severinus (1540/2–1602) (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2004), pp. 287–288.
  7. ^ Helmut Zedelmaier, "Navigieren im Text-Universum: Theodor Zwingers Theatrum Vitae Humanae," Metaphorik 14 (2008): 113: "Theodor Zwingers Theatrum vitae humanae ist die vielleicht umfangreichste Wissenssammlung, die ein einzelner Mensch je in der frühen Neuzeit erstellte."

Further reading[edit]

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