Swammerdam’s birthplace
Swammerdam’s science

His life and work

Nerve function


Bees and ants

"The Bible of Nature"

Amazing drawings

Techniques and microscopy


Swammerdam’s life



A fake “portrait”

Science in society

Empiricism and religion

Mysticism and modern science

Illustrations and their meaning

Swammerdam in culture

Swammerdam's world

Friends and contemporaries

Contemporary accounts

On-line resources

Under construction:

Discussions of Swammerdam’s work

A bibliography of Swammerdam's works


Jan Swammerdam was born in Amsterdam on 12 February 1637. His father, Jan Jacobszoon Swammerdam (1606-1678), was an apothecary (pharmacist) who a few months previously had bought a fine four-storey house on the Oude Schans canal, “De Star” (number 18 — arrowed in the picture below), which served both as family home and as Jacob’s apothecary shop.

Situated just south of the main docks and shipyards, the Oude Schans was protected by a gun-tower, the Montelbaanstoren, which is still an important feature of the Eastern part of Amsterdam. Today, the area remains relatively unspoilt and still resembles contemporary paintings from Swammerdam’s time.

The front of Jan's house. In 1880, a plaque was placed on the front of the house, between the first and second floors, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his death:

The Dutch text reads in translation: “His study of nature remains an example for all time.” On either side of the plaque are scorpions, above are butterflies, below are dragonflies, with a beetle in the middle.

Pictures © M. Cobb

Biographical references

Boerhaave, H. (1737) “The Life of John Swammerdam”, translated in Jan Swammerdam (1758), The Book of Nature (London: Seyffert).

Cobb, M. (2000) ‘Reading and writing The Book of Nature: Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)’, Endeavour, 24:122-129 (click
here to download a PDF version of this article).

Cole, F. J. (1937) ‘The birthplace of Jan Swammerdam’, Isis 27:452.

Duncan, J. (1840) ‘Memoire of Swammerdam’ in The Naturalist’s Library. Introduction to Entomology, edited by W. Jardine (Edinburgh)

Engel, H. (1946) Genealogy of Jan Swammerdam in A. Schierbeek (1946) Jan Swammerdam (12 Februari 1637 — 17 Februari 1680): Zijn leven en zijn werken. (Lochem: De Tijdstroom).

Harting, P. (1876) ‘Johannes Swammerdam. Een Levensschets’, Album der Natuur:1-28

Lindeboom, G. A. (1975) “A short biography of Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680) in The Letters of Jan Swammerdam to Melchisedec Thévenot, (ed. G. A. Lindeboom), 1975, Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Miall, L . C. (1912) The Early Naturalists: Their Lives and Work (London)

Nordström, J. (1954-55) ‘Swammerdamiana. Excerpts from the travel journal of Olaus Borrichius and two letters from Swammerdam to Thévenot’, Lychnos 16:21-65.

Schierbeek, A. (1967) Jan Swammerdam 1637-1680: His Life and Works (Amsterdam, Swets & Zeitlinger).

Winsor, M.P. (1976) Jan Swammerdam in DSB vol. XIII (Gillispie C.C. ed.), pp. 168-175, Charles Scribner’s Sons.