Felix Platter

1536 – 1614
Felix Platter

Contributed by Komalpreet Tur, MD (cand)

Felix Platter was a well renowned Swiss anatomist, physician and professor born in October of 1536 in Basel.[1] His father was very passionate about the study of medicine and helped foster Platter's interest in the field.[1] In 1552, he began his study of medicine in Montpellier, and developed a passion for anatomy. As he continued to gain a deep understanding of the field of medicine, he received his doctorate at the age of 21.[1] After graduating, he moved back home to Basel.[1] His passion and compassion created a well-respected image among his colleagues, and he was also well-liked by medical students.[1]

He placed a large effort in restructuring the medical school to help foster curiosity and create knowledgeable and well equipped physician.[1] Of note, during the plague of 1563-1564 he was a leader in providing medical care to those who had fallen ill.[1] In 1571, he took on the role of Chair of the Practice of Medicine and was also appointed City Physician. [1]

Over the course of his extensive career, Platter became a well-known pioneer in various medical specialties such as Ophthalmology, Neurology, Pediatrics, and Endocrinology. [1,4] He published his findings in a series of medical writings. His love for anatomy helped others better understand the physiology and pathology of the human body.[1] In the field of Ophthalmology, Platter challenged the notion that the lens was the anatomical compartment that originated and transmitted visual signals to the brain.[6] In his anatomical drawing of the eye, platter shifted the lens closer to the iris. He was the first to suggest the retina and optic nerve’s importance in the direct transmission of visual signals to the brain, further advancing the understanding of the human eye.[3,6] This new understanding was further studied and developed by his successors.[3] Felix also played a role in understanding and describing floaters of the eye.[6]

“The principal organ of vision, namely the optic nerve, expands through the whole hemisphere of the retina as soon as it enters the eye. This receives and discriminates the form and colour of external objects which together with the light enter the eye through the opening of the pupil and are projected on it by the lens.” - Felix Platter



Provided medical care to patients during the plague

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Published De Corpus Humani Structura et usu[1] (in this anatomical book, the optic nerve and retina were demonstrated as light transducers)

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Published Praxeos seu de cognoscendis, praedicendis, praecavendis[1]

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Published Observationum in hominis affectibus[1] (valuable case studies)

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Academic Appointment


  • Appointed Chair of the Practice of Medicine and City Physician of Basel[1]

Education & Training

Began study of Medicine in Montpellier[1], 1552

Received doctorate in medicine, returned to Basel to practice medicine and continue his study of anatomy[1,6], 1557


Felix Platter is shown seated, with two companions, at a table covered with surgical instruments, books, fruit and a bird which he touches while holding a scalpel in his other hand. Below this room are the figures of Hippocrates and Galen, set before niches, on either side of a flayed human skin. On the right base, below Galen is the image of a swan around whose neck is entwined a snake and a crown. On the left base, below Hippocrates, is the image of a crane holding a stone in the claw of its raised leg, an allegory of Vigilance. After studying in Montpellier, Felix Platter returned to Basel to lecture on medicine at the University and be appointed the principal physician of the city. During his student years, he kept a journal that described his experiences and medical education, as well as capturing daily sixteenth-century student-life. In addition to being an anatomist and physician, he was also a collector.”[5]

Platter's anatomy illustration


  1. "FELIX PLATTER (1536-1614) BASLE PHYSICIAN." JAMA 203.5 (1968): 357-358.
  2. “[Felix Platter].” National Library of Medicine Digital Collection. Accessed 5 May 2022.
  3. Grüsser, Otto-Joachim, and Michael Hagner. "On the history of deformation phosphenes and the idea of internal light generated in the eye for the purpose of vision." Documenta Ophthalmologica 74.1-2 (2005): 57-85.
  4. Koelbing HM. Felix Platter (1536-1614) als Augenarzt [Felix Platter (1536-1614) as ophthalmologist]. Gesnerus. 1990;47 Pt 1:21-30. German. PMID: 2184100.
  5. Platter, Felix. “The Anatomist Felix Platter, Seated at a Table Covered with Surgical Instruments in a Room with Two Other Men, below Which Are the Figures of Hippocrates and Galen. Engraving, 1656.” Wellcome Collection,
  6. “Portraits of European Neuroscientists.” Felix Platter | Portraits of European Neuroscientists,

(Tribute published 2022)