Since the Middle Ages, spectacular progress has been made in medical science, and this can be followed closely in manuscripts and printed works. While through modern eyes, early medicine sometimes seems more like quackery and fortune telling than science, it was firmly based on an extensive theoretical framework developed in classical antiquity.
New insights supplemented this knowledge, such as those originating from Arabic doctors. In the 16th century, Andreas Vesalius started his studies of human anatomy. Thereafter, the developments came thick and fast. These developments can be followed step by step in the Special Collections.
The Special Collections include medical manuscripts from the 12th century onwards, in particular the standard works from classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, such as those by Avicenna, Galenus, Gariopontus, Bernardus de Gordonio, Hippocrates, Isaac Israeli and Trota. Most of the manuscripts are written in Latin or Middle Dutch. These and other works were published in print, often with images, from the late fifteenth century onwards.
Many printed works on medicine come from legacies from 19th and 20th-century Utrecht professors and the collections of the Homoeopathic Centre Foundation (Stichting Homeopatisch Centrum) and the Utrecht Military Hospital (Militair Hospitaal in Utrecht). The University Museum includes collections that focus on dentistry and ophthalmology.
The more practical side of medicine is addressed in the writings of the librarian, administrator and doctor Cornelis Booth (1605-1678), the correspondence of the doctor Theodorus Janssonius van Almeloveen (1657-1712) and a large collection of lecture notes from around 1700 onwards.
In addition, the Special Collections include the archives of professor of physiology Hendrik Zwaardemaker Czn. (1857-1930), professor of infectious diseases Klaas Christianus Winkler (1908-1995), and of David de Wied (1925-2004), professor of pharmacy, who was also director of The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) (1984-1990).