Petrus Camper bigraphy, stories - Dutch scientist

Petrus Camper : biography

May 11, 1722 - April 7, 1789

Peter, Pieter, or usually Petrus Camper (May 11, 1722 – April 7, 1789), was a Dutch physician, anatomist, physiologist, midwife, zoologist, anthropologist, paleontologist and a naturalist. He studied the orangutan, the rhinoceros, and the skull of a mosasaur, which he believed was a whale. One of the first to interest himself in comparative anatomy and paleontology, he also invented the measure of the facial angle. Camper was not a dull professor in his library, becoming a celebrity in Europe and a member of the Royal Society. He was interested in architecture, mathematics, and made drawings for his lectures. He designed and made tools for his patients, always trying to be practical. Besides he was a sculptor, a patron of art and a conservative politician.


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").

His son Adriaan Gilles also became a scientist and published much of his father's unpublished research in addition to a biography of him."Levensschets van P. Camper", by Adriaan Gilles camper, Leeuw, 1791.

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).


Surgeon's Guild

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 investigated inguinal hernia, patella and the best form of shoe. He withdrew five years later to dedicate himself to scientific research and lived on his property just outside Franeker. In 1762 he became politically active in Groningen, and a year later he chose to accept the chair of anatomy, surgery and botanics at the university there.

Both in Amsterdam and in later years, Camper kept a surgical clinic and showed selfmade drawings to illustrate his eloquent lectures, before retiring in 1773. His main focus of attention was for anatomy, zoology and his collection of minerals and fossils. Among his many works, he studied osteology of birds and discovered the presence of air in the inner cavities of birds' skeletons. He investigated the anatomy of eight orangutans, and claimed it was a different species from the human being, and not simply a "degenerate" type of (white) human, as some contemporary scientists theorized. Petrus Camper published memoirs on the hearing of fishes and the sound of frogs, and dissected an elephant, and a rhinoceros from Java. He studied the diseases of rinderpest and rabies.

  • He was visited by Samuel Thomas von Sömmering, who later became a professor in Göttingen.
  • He became an associate of the French Academy of Sciences and had a eulogy in his honour composed by Nicolas de Condorcet and Félix Vicq-d'Azyr.
  • In 1776 he became involved in a plan of dike construction.
  • In 1780 he took lessons from Étienne Maurice Falconet.
  • In his ideas about art Camper was influenced by Johann Joachim Winckelmann.
  • He made drawings of the Dolmen south of Groningen.
  • He was in the selection committee for the prize contest for the design of the new townhall in Groningen that was later awarded to his friend Jacob Otten Husly, who he knew from his work for the Amsterdam Drawing Academy.
  • He became one of the directors of the Admiralty of Friesland.
  • He was appointed as an (Orangist) burgomaster of Workum in 1783, opposing the Patriots (faction).
  • In September 1787 he became the president of the state council of the Dutch Republic and warmly welcomed the stattholder William V of Orange and his wife Wilhelmine of Prussia.
  • At the end of life he suffered from pleuritis; Camper drank a good glass of champagne and died.
Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine