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Ten Rhyne (Rhijne), Willem

1. Dates
Born: Deventer, 2 Jan. 1649. Early sources give the date as probably 1647. Schoute cites the baptismal record of 14 January 1647 and establishes the date of birth as 2 January.
Died: Batavia (Dutch East Indies), 1 June 1700.
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 51
2. Father
Occupation: Artisan
Israel ten Rijne [sic], a glazier.
No information on financial status of family.
3. Nationality
Birth: Dutch
Career: Dutch (colony)
Death: Dutch (colony)
4. Education
Schooling: Franeker; Leiden; Angers, M.D.
After the Illustrious School in Deventer, he went to the University of Franeker (1666-7)) and then to Leiden in 1668.
M.D. at Angers in 1670.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist, Jew
Schoute states that the family belonged to the orthodox Calvinist circle of Deventer, citing in support of this the marriage of Ten Rhyne's sister. I have been intrigued by the first name of the father. Floris Cohen made an investigation for me which lead to the rather strong presumption that the name "Israel," which was not in use among Dutch Calvinists, probably signified Jewish descent.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Botany, Pharmacology
After his M.D. he published on gout in 1669.
While in Japan he studied the tea plant and other plants. Earlier he had studied the plants at the Cape of Good Hope, where he stopped en route to the East Indies. He published on all of these. Eventually he collaborated with Adriaan van Reede tot Drakestein on a twelve volume Hortus Malabaricus.
Ten Rhijne published a classic work on leprosy in 1687, and a work which was Europe's real introduction to acupuncture. His work on plants seems always to have had their pharmacological uses at least partly in mind.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Government
1673, he left for Batavia to serve as physician to the Dutch East India Company. While there he gave anatomical lessons to local surgeons. (I am considering positions with the Dutch East India Company as essentially governmental positions.)
1674-6, he served at the company station in Japan and may even have treated the Emperor.
1677, he was made governor of the leper colony, the basis of his book on the disease. This was certainly a governmental position but involved not salary.
1679-81, physician on Sumatra; he received a regular salary for this service. I assume he did in Batavia as well though I did not see it mentioned.
1681-1700, member of the council of Justice in Batavia; this position carried a salary.
1684, curator of the gymnasium in Batavia.
8. Patronage
Type: Merchant
The principal burden of van Dorssen's long article is that another physician, Andreas Cleijer, whom he describes an an intellectual nonentity jealous of Ten Rhijne's accomplishments, monopolized the medical establishment in the East Indies, preventing Ten Rhijne from ever having the medical position his qualities deserved. Even though Ten Rhijne seized the opportunity to study the disease, the position with the leper colony, which involved no salary, was a way, van Dorssen argues, to keep him out of the way. Van Dorssen is convinced that only pressure from The Netherlands, where Ten Rhijne had friends, brought about his appointment to the Council of Justice. Van Dorssen names Pieter van Dam, a member of the Council of the East India Company, to whom Ten Rhijne dedicated his book of leprosy.
Ten Rhijne's career in the East Indies, which certainly appears frustrated in light of his manifest ability, plus the fact that he chose to stay there, far from Christian Europe, seems to me strongly to support the likelihood that he was of Jewish descent.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek. There are two separate sketches of Ten Rhijne in NNBW. The one in vol. 6 is awful. The later one in vol. 9 is much better.
  2. J.M.H. van Dorssen, "Willem ten Rhijne," Geneeskundig tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indie, 51 (1911), 134-228.
  3. Carruba and Bowers, "Willem ten Rhijne's De acupunctura," Journal of the History of Medicine, 29 (1974), 371-97.
  4. G.A. Lindeboom, Dutch Medical Biography, 1622-4.
  5. G.A. Lindeboom, Florentius Schuyl, (Den Haag, 1974), pp. 94-7.
  6. Introduction by D. Schoute to Opuscula selecta Neerlandicorum de arte medica, XXIV (Amsterdam, 1937)--the republication of sections of Ten Rhijne's book on leprosy.
  7. Not consulted: van der Aa, Biographisch Woordenboek, 10, 96.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

1995 Al Van Helden
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