My father in law became part of the family mortuary business which his father established before him. He had a keen eye. He was able to restructure faces which had been mangled or disfigured by disaster – burned – cut – bruised – suffering the effects of disease or old age.
He was familiar with the beauty of God’s masterful creation of man. He was involved in many forensic autopsies before they were held in county or city medical hospitals. He saw the results of what a gunshot could do. How violence and hatred could cause infinite damage. Often body parts would need to be stored for future reference or in use in criminal investigations.
He was a kind man with the heart of an artist. He paid particular attention to making the dead look alive and natural – if that’s even possible. He would often have to restructure the face to bring it back to its original condition.
My husband enjoyed science as a kid and had his own scientific lab in the basement of the funeral home. They had their residence upstairs from the business. His choice was to go into art and study at the Art Institute of Chicago. While there, he had to look inside the body by taking anatomy classes, so he could draw or paint the outside of all those moving parts. It was necessary to learn about muscles, skeletal stucture ligaments and tendons and the function of those elements, not to mention the vital organs.
On this day in 1638, Frederik Ruysch was born in The Hague. His father was a government functionary. Frederick’s father died when he was a young boy, but he developed an early interest in the study of botany and became the student of a druggist. He also had a passion for anatomy. The only way to obtain corpses to study, however, was to rob them from their graves. He used early techniques of embalming to preserve the body parts for future examination.
He became praelector of the Amsterdam Surgeons Guild in 1667. By 1679 he was appointed as a forensic advisor to the Amsterdam courts and in 1685 as a professor in botany specializing in indigenous plants. He is believed to be one of the first to use arterial embalming. Many of his studies led to discoveries regarding the flow of blood through veins and arteries. These early years of medicine would lead to further experimentation and eventually cures for various diseases.
His collection of preserved body parts became a rather macabre display for folks to view in several Dutch homes. Ruysch sold his “repository of curiosities” to Peter the Great for 30,000 guilders.
Those who delve into the inner workings of the human body, are a boon to the world. Without them, we would never eliminate contagious diseases. We’d never come to knowledge of what causes Cancer and other terminal diseases. We’d still be living in the dark ages. Frederik did a great service to the medical community. He died at the ripe old age of 92 in 1731 in Amsterdam.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FREDERIK RUYSCH