Welcome to this website about Niels Steensen, one of the most fascinating Danish personalities of the 17th century.
Steensen was born in Copenhagen in 1638, and went abroad to study in the Netherlands when he was 21. There he made a reputation for himself within anatomy. His discoveries gained him the patronage of the Medici court in Florence, where he lived and worked from 1666-1674. His work in Florence laid the foundations of the science of geology.
Steensen converted to Catholicism, was ordained a priest and bishop, and worked in northern Germany until his death in Schwerin in 1686. He was known for his exemplary integrity, self-sacrifice, and service to others. In 1988 Niels Steensen was beatified by blessed John Paul II.

In 1666 fisherman off the coast of Livorno caught a large shark and presented it to Niels Steensen’s benefactor, Grand Duke Leopold II, who  decided that Steensen should dissect the shark. Steensen published his observations in a short treatise,  Canis…

In the summer of 1661 he vacationed with Ole Borch and visited the Zuidersee and the university town of Groningen.

Prospect of Hamburg. Creator: Wenceslas Hollar.

From Rostock he would have gone on to Hamburg, where  he would have undoubtedly seen the cathedral and perhaps the Spinnhaus and the Zuchthaus.


From Dunkerque Niels Steensen could see England, a country he was never to visit. On his visit he would have seen this belfry, which still stands today.