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Conrad Gesner

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Conrad Gesner

*  1516 Zürich
† 1565 Zürich


Conrad Gesner was born on March 16, 1516, in Zurich. Gesner studied classical languages and theology in Strasbourg and beginning in 1533 studied medicine in Bourges, Paris, and Montpellier. He was appointed professor of Greek at the Academy in Lausanne in 1537 but gave up his post four years later and settled in Zurich in 1541, where he practiced medicine after receiving his doctorate. Gesner lived and worked in Zurich from this time until his death. He took a position as professor of physics, natural philsophy, and ethics in 1546. He became assistant Stadtarzt in 1552. Two years later he became Stadtarzt and was appointed regular of the Grossmünster in 1558. Gesner received an imperial patent of nobility in 1564. Gesner died from the Black Death on December 13, 1565. Because of his numerous works, Gesner is recognized as one of the most versatile and productive scholars of Switzerland, distinguished in many areas of science. He received recognition for his achievements as a compiler, thorough encyclopedist, cultural and geographical universalist, theologian, orientalist, linguist, natural scientist, physician, as well as for his knowlegde of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. In many of these fields, he composed ground breaking scientific texts. An example of his pioneering work is the lexikon "Historia animalium," which contains over a thousand woodcuts. The first four volumes with around 4,500 pages on mammals, amphibians and reptiles, birds and water animals appeared during his lifetime (1551-1558), while a fifth volume on snakes and a sixth on insects appeared posthumously in 1587 and 1634, respectively. Conrad Gesner is regarded as one of the most famous and important natural scientists and scholars of Switzerland.