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Extra info for Death Defied: The Anatomy Lessons of Frederik Ruysch
In De Bils’s opinion, Van Horne, Bartholin, DeleBoë and all those other scientists were mistaken. In fact, the whole of the medical world was ‘completely unreasonable . . and highly suspect’. De Bils claimed that 23 Van der Neer, De tweede Amsterdamsche buuren-kout. ) 28 chapter one Fig. 1 Depiction by R. van Persijn of a dog dissected by De Bils. 24 That insult was intolerable. De Bils had also suggested that his undertaking had failed because Van Horne had maligned him, and that, too, was a misunderstanding that needed to be cleared up.
Indeed, Ruysch was to become his greatest rival, but in the meantime he still had a lot to learn. As a young man of twenty, he had begun his study of human anatomy with the most readily available parts of the body: the bones. Unless one had permission from the local authorities, it was almost impossible to get hold of research material, and an inexperienced apothecary’s apprentice could expect no favours in such matters. Ruysch therefore had to employ dubious methods to obtain study material. As Vesalius had done, he donned an old jacket and went at night to the cemetery, where the gravediggers—whom he had convinced of the scientific necessity of dissecting cadavers—opened up graves for him.
In 1655 he published a pamphlet in which he presented himself as someone who had ‘never obtained a degree or any knowledge of Latin’, but who had learned anatomy in practice, because he ‘had been impelled to do so from the age of thirteen by an extraordinary, inexplicable passion’. He had heard that Van Horne, meanwhile a professor of anatomy, had been so delighted with his preparations that he had embraced and kissed them. 20 While De Bils’s pamphlet focused attention on his skills, it was actually little more than an advertisement.