Daniel Sennert

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Daniel Sennert

Daniel Sennert (born November 25, 1572 in Breslau ; † July 21, 1637 in Wittenberg ) was a German doctor . Sennert campaigned for the introduction of chemistry into medicine ( iatrochemistry ) and enjoyed a high reputation as a doctor. He was one of the ones in the various subjects in the early 17th century and campaigned - with David van Goorle (David Gorlaeus; 1591–1612) - for the spread of atomistics . Joachim Jungius and Robert Boyle developed the ideas he published further.


The son of the citizen and shoemaker Nikolaus Sennert and his wife Katharina Hellmann from Zotten lost his 80-year-old father at the age of 13. His mother spent all of his savings on upbringing and so he enjoyed his basic education in Breslau. In 1593 it enabled him to study Artes liberales at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Wittenberg , where he enrolled in the matriculation on June 6th. On April 3, 1598, Sennert acquired the degree of master's degree .

Instead of starting school as planned, Sennert turned to studying medicine in Wittenberg. In order to be introduced to the practice, he went to Berlin in 1601 and joined the doctor Johann Georg Magnus . On his advice he received his doctorate on July 3, 1601 in Wittenberg and was appointed doctor of medicine on September 8, 1601 . On September 15, 1602, he was appointed to succeed Jan Jessenius , who wanted to move to Prague , as professor of medicine. From now on he read about anatomy, making internal diseases his specialty.

In the medical disputes, he tried to mediate between the old views and the new ones of the followers of Paracelsus . Nevertheless, Sennert reformed the teaching of medicines, based on the findings of Paracelsus, and integrated them into medical studies. Because of his work he was therefore also valued by people from far away countries. Sennert was president of around 100 disputations. Of his respondents, 16 obtained medical licentiates and medical doctorates. His students Laurentius Eichstädt , Simon Paulli and Wolfgang Schaller were also given professorships.

His reputation is also reflected in his appointment as personal physician to Johann Georg I of Saxony in 1628. After he had administered the deanery of the medical faculty in Wittenberg several times , he was in 1605 pro, 1611, 1617, 1623, 1629, 1635 rector of the academy. He survived six plague epidemics that raged in Wittenberg. During the last one, however, he became infected, had chills, sweating and refused to eat. He did not sleep, fantasized and talked incessantly about his patients until he passed away.


Sennert mainly devoted himself to internal illnesses. He deserves the credit of being one of the first to recognize and describe scarlet fever as an independent disease in its own right. He also described the making of the (first definitely verifiable) caesarean section , which the Wittenberg surgeon Jeremias Trautmann performed in Wittenberg in 1610. By advocating the revolutionary “chemical” view of medicine, represented by Paracelsus , he promoted this and had a highly stimulating effect on the further training of chemistry and its introduction to medicine.

His scientific writings, along with his medical works - six volumes on "practical medicine" and four volumes on "febrile diseases" - earned him a reputation. How sought-after and coveted his writings were can be seen from the fact that years after his death his collected works were still published in print in Lyon (France).

Sennert tried to combine various scientific teachings, which earned him a lot of criticism. His turn to atomistics and his doctrine of the immortality of animal souls, which according to his conception passed from one generation to the next "per traducem", led Johann Freitag to the accusation of heresy , but the "expert opinions" of the theological faculties were favorable and a fate such as Giordano Bruno , Galileo Galilei and others was spared him. In addition, Sennert was the first to describe the infectious disease scarlet fever and, alongside Pierre Gassendi, was the most important advocate of atomism in the 17th century.

In his scientific and philosophical works, Sennert merged various controversial ideas and traced substances back to the smallest particles, gifted with form, whereby he hierarchically arranged the forms as the central operating principle in all bodies of nature. The shape of the animal, for example, the animal's soul, dominates the simpler substances that make up the body. When the animal dies, these subordinate forms take over. The atoms are to be understood here as the smallest bodies in each case in which a certain shape can still exist, while the shape is lost if matter is further divided. He rejects the possibility of an infinite (mathematical) division of the body when he writes that ... nature stops at certain smallest particles when dissolving and creating the body . Sennert did not yet understand elements as those basic materials that are so called according to the modern definition, but resorted to Aristotle 's doctrine of the four elements (fire, water, air and earth) .


Sennert was married three times:

His first marriage took place in 1603 with Magaretha, the daughter of Andreas Schato (1539-1603). In this marriage five sons and two daughters were born, of which two sons and one daughter outlived their father. The sons Andreas Sennert , Daniel Sennert the Younger and Michael Sennert became famous . Margaretha Sennert (born October 14, 1609 in Wittenberg, † July 9, 1662 in Dresden) married the Saxon personal physician Laurentius Papst in 1630 (born July 26, 1599 in Vienna; † March 9, 1672 in Dresden).

On August 22, 1626 he married Helena (born April 20, 1582 in Stendal; † January 14, 1632 in Wittenberg), the daughter of the doctor Georg Burenius (farmer) and his wife Helena Weller von Molsdorf, the widow of the Dresden citizen and innkeeper Jerome Frost. No children are known from this marriage.

He concluded his third marriage on May 28, 1633 with Magaretha Cramer from Leipzig, the widow of the Altenburg court preacher Lic. Johannes Cramer.

Fonts (selection)

  • Epitome scientae naturalis, Wittenberg 1618 English London 1661
  • De Chymicorum cum Aristotelicis et Galenicis consensu et dissensu, 1619
  • Disputatio De Natura Chymiae & Chymicorum Principiis . Wittebergae 1629, online edition of the Saxon State Library - Dresden State and University Library
  • Physica hypomnemata de rerum naturalium principiis, occultis qualitatibus, de atomis et Mistione, de generatione viventium et spontaneo viventium ortu, Frankfurt 1636, digitized
  • Quaestionum medicarum controversarum liber
  • Institutionum medicinae libri V, 1620
  • De febribus libri IV, 1619
  • Practicae medicinae libri VI, 1628
  • De chymicorum cum Aristotelicis et Galenicis consensu et dissensu liber
  • De scorbuto tractatus, 1624
  • De dyssenteria
  • De occultis medicamentorum facultatibus ...,
  • Epitome Institutionum medicinae et Librorum De febribus Danielis Sennerti, [Sl]; Patavii: Frambotti, 1644. Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf


  • Walter Friedensburg : History of the University of Wittenberg. Max Niemeyer, Halle (Saale) 1917
  • Fritz Roth : Complete evaluations of funeral sermons and personal documents for genealogical and cultural-historical purposes . Volume 6, R 5097
  • Rembert Ramsauer , Karl Lothar Wolf : The atomistics of Daniel Sennert . In: Journal for the entire natural sciences . Volume 1, 1935, pp. 357-360
  • Wolfgang Uwe Eckart : Antiparacelsism, occult qualities and medical-scientific knowledge in the work of Daniel Sennert (1572–1637) . In: August Buck (ed.): The occult sciences in the Renaissance . Wiesbaden 1992, pp. 139-157
  • Wolfgang Uwe Eckart: Fundamentals of medical-scientific knowledge with Daniel Sennert (1572–1637), examined on his work: "De Chymocorum ... liber ...", Wittenberg 1629. Münster 1978, DNB 790965666 (also medical dissertation, University of Münster (Westphalia)) , 1978, 166 pages).
  • Wolfgang U. Eckart: Sennert, Daniel. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1320.
  • Hermann Markgraf:  Sennert, Daniel . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 34, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1892, p. 34 f.
  • Michael Stolberg: The amazement before creation: "Tota substantia", "calidum innatum", "generatio spontanea" and atomistic theory of forms by Daniel Sennert . In: Gesnerus . Vol. 50, 1993, pp. 48-65.
  • Hans Theodor Koch: The Wittenberg Medical Faculty (1502–1652). A biobibliographical overview . In: Stefan Oehmig: Medicine and social affairs in Central Germany during the Reformation . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-374-02437-7
  • Hans Kangro : Dictionary of Scientific Biography (DSB). Volume 12, 1975, pp. 310-313
  • W. Schönefeld: Daniel Sennert . In: Dermatologische Wochenschrift . 1952, p. 140
  • Gerhard Hennemann: Daniel Sennert, a German naturalist of the 17th century . In: People and Race . Volume 17, Munich and Berlin 1942
  • Otto Vossenberg: The surgery of Daniel Sennert. Nolte, 1940
  • Pierre Bayle : Historical and Critical Dictionary: Second part of the selection . Meiner, 2006, ISBN 3-7873-1786-4 , pp. 641-659
  • Sennertus, Daniel, one of the most famous doctors. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 37, Leipzig 1743, columns 74-77.
  • August Tholuck: Witnesses of the Lutheran Church from all classes before and during the period of the Thirty Years' War. Wiegandt & Grieben, 1859, GoogleBooks
  • Claus Priesner:  Sennert, Daniel. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 24, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-428-11205-0 , p. 262 f. ( Digitized version ).

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