Picter Camper, a Dutch physician and anatomist, born in Ley den, May 11, 1722, died at the Hague, April 7,1789. He studied medicine at Ley den, and in 1748 travelled through England, France, and Switzerland, visiting museums and collections of art, and competing for the prizes offered by academic and scientific bodies. In 1749 he was appointed professor of philosophy, medicine, and surgery at Franeker; in 1755 professor of anatomy and surgery, and in 1758 of medicine, in the Athenaeum of Amsterdam, which position he resigned in 1761. In 1763 he became professor of medicine, surgery, anatomy, and botany at the university of Groningen. In 1773 he resigned this chair, and some time after he was named a member of the state council of the United Provinces. He received prizes from the academies and societies of Paris, Dijon, Lyons, Toulouse, Haarlem, and Edinburgh; and was member of those of Berlin, St. Petersburg, London, Gottingen, and Paris. His scientific discoveries were numerous. In 1761 he discovered that the hollow bones of birds are in direct communication with the respiratory organs.
Gabbe had already observed that these bones in birds contained no marrow, and he surmised that this peculiarity was a condition of stability; but Camper showed that the air of the lungs, penetrating into these cavities of the bones, subserved a special purpose in rendering the body specifically lighter as a means of rising in the air, and enabling the bird to fly. In 1774 John Hunter made the same observation, and described this peculiarity in the anatomy of birds; and hence many English anatomists ascribe the discovery to him, which really belongs to Camper. He was one of the earliest ethnological students who attempted to illustrate the varieties of the human race. He makes the shape of the skull the basis of classification, and explains the characteristic form and expression of countenance from the facial angle. He was the first who gave a correct description of the osteology of the rhinoceros, the dugong, and many other animals of different types, giving an impetus to the study of comparative anatomy. He pointed out the analogies which link together the whole chain of vertebrated animals, men, apes, quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, and fishes. He published separate dissertations on several medical topics, together with a series of memoirs for different learned societies.
Among the principal of these are essays on inoculation for smallpox; on the origin and color of negroes; on the signs of life and death in new-born infants; on the causes of infanticide and suicide; on the intromission of air into the lungs of new-born children; and on the operation of lithotomy. In 1803 a collection of his works was published at Paris, in 3 vols. 8vo, with a folio atlas of plates.