Scientist. Born in Libochovice (Bohemia), at that time belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now to Czech Republic, he became fatherless and poor at 6 years old what forced him to enter, at 10, a Piarist monastery at Mikulov in southern Moravia, near the Austrian border. There he turned into a choirboy while reading to become a priest. As a novice, he was called brother Silverius; nonetheless, and just prior to be ordained, he chose to be a doctor instead at Prague University, where, in 1818, he presented his doctoral thesis on vision, and next year he reached his graduation in Medicine. Then as a scientist he manifested interest in a wide range of fields, including Anatomy, Histology, Embryology, and Experimental Physiology. In 1823, and although fingerprints were encouraged to be used in criminology not until about 70 years later with the work of Sir Francis Galton, he recognized the importance of fingerprints in human individuality and divided them into 9 chief categories. He was the first scientist to perceive the existence of skin sweat glands and described the ciliary movements. A serial of scientific eponyms are linked to his name; for instance, the Purkinje cells (in cerebellar cortex) and the Purkinje fibers (in heart ventricles), not to mention that a crater on the Moon and an asteroid also bear his name. He developed new laboratorial methods for processing and sectioning biological tissues and founded, in 1839, the world first independent department of Physiology at the University of Breslau, in Prussia (now Wroclaw, in Poland). He coined the term protoplasm for the living matter inside the cells, a knowledge that helped to sustain the formulation of the Cell Theory. He was considered one of the most prominent and famous scientists of the 19th Century; it is said that for sending him letters from outside Europe, it was enough to write in the address "Purkinje, Europe". In 1868, he was given the Order of Leopold. He died next year in Prague. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote about him: "…and should you fail to understand, let Purkinje give you a hand!"
Bio by: Rogério Monteiro