Purkinje, Jan Evangelista

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Purkinje, Jan Evangelista


(also J. E. Purkyně). Born Dec. 17, 1787, in Libochovice; died July 28, 1869, in Prague. Czech biologist and public figure. Father of K. Purkinje.

Purkinje studied medicine in the University of Prague and graduated in 1818. He was a professor at the University of Bres-lau (Wrocław) from 1823 and at the University of Prague from 1850. He founded the world’s first institute of physiology in Breslau in 1839 and a similar institute in Prague in 1851.

Purkinje greatly influenced the development of physiology, cytology, anatomy, and embryology. He discovered the nucleus of the egg cell in 1825 and introduced the concept of protoplasm in 1839. He came close to formulating the cell theory. Purkinje also improved microtechnique. His studies on the physiology of vision (1818–25) laid the foundation for opthalmos-copy and ophthalmometry and the theories of central and peripheral vision. He studied the physiology of speech (1832–35) and discovered the movement of the cilia of ciliated epithelium (1835). He also described several histological structures that bear his name, for example, Purkinje fibers and Purkinje cells.

One of the famous Buditeli (The Awakeners), Purkinje advocated the introduction of the Czech language into high schools and the creation of a national academy of sciences and a national theater. He founded the popular science magazine Živa and the first medical journal in Czech. He was a pantheist.

Purkinje was an honorary member of the St. Petersburg Medical and Surgical Academy, the University of Kharkov, and the Society of Russian Physicians in St. Petersburg.


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Opera selecta. Prague, 1948.


Katsnel’son, Z. S. Kletochnaia teoriia v ee istoricheskom razvitii. Leningrad, 1963.
Rozsívalová, E. Život a dílo J. E. Purkyně. Prague, 1956.
Kruta, V.J. E. Purkyně (1787–1869) Physiologist. Prague, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.