Gerard van Swieten

Portrait: Gerard van Swieten
Portrait of Gerard van Swieten, copperplate etching by Reinier Vinkeles, 1773
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig

Gerard van Swieten

Personal physician and censor

…, for the censor knows no holiday and no interruption in his work.

Gerard van Swieten, Quelques remarques sur la censure des livres, 1772

Gerard van Swieten from Leiden was called to Vienna and appointed imperial personal physician and prefect of the imperial library by Empress Maria Theresia in 1745. From 1759 on and against the bitter resistance of the Jesuits, he effected a relaxation in the censorship regulations in his capacity as head of the Studien- und Büchercensur-Hofkommission (Court Academic and Book Censorship Commission). Within this commission, the Jesuits were responsible for philosophical and theological literature, while the university saw to law-related texts and Swieten dealt with medicine and works of poetry and fiction.