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 Jacobs 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 Swammerdams 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
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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).
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Duncan, J. (1840) Memoire of Swammerdam in The Naturalists 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).
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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 Scribners Sons.