Schroeder van Der Kolk, Jacobus Ludovicus Conradus

views updated


(b. Leeuwarden, Nethrlands, 14 March 1797; d; Utrecht, Netherlands, 1 May 1862)


Schroeder van der Kolk began the study of medicine in 1812 at the University of Groningen. As a student, he wrote two prize essays: one on the benefits accruing to the animal economy from the latent or combined caloric of air and water (1816) and the other on blood and its circulation (1819). In 1820 he received the M.D. for his dissertation on the coagulation of blood. He then established a medical practice in Hoorn but the following year was appointed resident physician at the Buitengasthuis in Amsterdam. where he treated about 400 patients daily. He also performed many postmortem examinations and did much on behalf of the 150 mental patients in the hospital. Thus he had abundant opportunity to acquire an extensive practical knowledge of various diseases. He prepared anatomical specimens. In 1826 he published his anatomical researches. Observationes anatomicopathologici et practici argumenti; and in the same year he established a medical practice in Amsterdam. In 1827 he was appointed professor of anatomy and physiology at the University of Utrecht; he held this post until his death.

Schroeder van der Kolk’s many articles on anatomy reveal both his skill in fine anatomical examination and his wide reading. At Utrecht he compared the anatomy of man with that of other vertebrates and often used the microscope to examine organs and tissues, a practice that was still uncommon. He also lectured on morbid anatomy and emphasized the value of anatomical investigations. In 1845 he discovered that tuberculous pulmonary tissue is easily recognized by the presence of elastic threads in the sputum. But he mistakenly concluded that these threads originate only from a tuberculous cavity.

To gain a better insight into brain disorders Schroeder van der Kolk closely examined the structure of the central nervous system. He conducted anatomical-physiological, pathological-anatomical, and clinical researches on the structure of the human brain and on that of higher animals. From 1855 he studied microscopically the spinal cord and the medulla oblongata. His most important discovery was the connection between the nervous fibers of the anterior roots of the medulla oblongata and the large branched cells of the anterior gray horns of the spinal cord.

Schroeder van der Kolk’s studies are characterized by his accurate descriptions and fine illustrations. He published works on the anatomy of the tarsier Stenops kukang of the East Indies (1841): on the anatomy and physiology of the larva of the horse botfly Gasterophilus intestinalis (1845): on the structure of the lungs of birds (1858): on the liver of the elephant (1861): and, with Willem Vrolik, professor of anatomy at Amsterdam, on the comparative anatomy of the half-apes (1848). He also wrote on the brain of the chimpanzee (1849) and the orangutan (1861), the vascular plexuses of the three-toed sloth Bradypus tridactylus, and on the limbs of birds (1848).

Schroeder van der Kolk was deeply influenced by vitalism, and he often proposed extreme teleological points of view, especially in his lectures on physiology (ca. 1840); he was resolute against the rising materialism of his time. Besides the primitive forces in nature (attraction and repulsion) and the imponderables (light, heat, electricity, galvanism, and magnetism), he saw in the vegetable and animal kingdoms various life-forces. In man, he believed that the nervous-force informs the sensibility with its impression of the outer world and that this force communicates the commands of the will to the muscles. Although he sought an empirical foundation for this philosophy, he was unable to escape from the concepts of vis vitalis and teleology. He was convinced that all events in the universe are focused on a good and just aim.

Besides his work in physiology and anatomy, Schroeder van der Kolk always strove for better care for the insane; his Oratio de debita cura infaustam maniacorum sortem emendandi eosque sanandi in nostra patria neglecta (1837) dealt with this subject. In 1827 he became a governor of the Utrechtsche Dolhuis and sought to improve both the treatment and housing of the insane. His reforms prompted legislation for general reform in the care of the mad; and after passage of the Lunacy Act in 1841, he was appointed inspector of lunatic asylums (1842–1862).

Schroeder van der Kolk’s textbook on psychiatry was published posthumously by his pupil F. A. Hartsen. His clinical psychiatric concepts were also influenced by vitalism. He thought that body and soul interact in the life-force (or “brain-force”): in the insane the brain-force, rather than the soul (the “higher principle” in man), is ill. Thus the soul receives wrong data from the nervous-force and consequently reaches a wrong judgement.


I. Original Works. Schroeder van der Kolk’s works include “Responsio ad quaestionem: quae sunt emolumenta praecipua, quae ex calorico latente, seu ligato, aëris et aquae ad oeconomiam animalem redundant,” in Annales Academiae Groninganae (1815–1816): “Commentatio ad quaestionem, ab ordine medico anno 1818 propositam, de sanguinis vase effluentes coagulatione,” ibid. (1818–1819): Dissertatio physiologica-medica inauguralis, sistens sanguinis coagulantis historiam, cumexperimentis ad eam illustrandam institutis (Groningen, 1820): Observationes anatomico-pathologici et practici argumenti (Amsterdam, 1826); Oratio de anatomiae pathologicae praecipue subtilioris studio utilissimo et ad morborum naturam investigandam maxime commendando (Utrecht, 1827); and Eene Voorlezing over het verschil tusschen doode natuurkrachten, levenskrachten en ziel (Utrecht, 1835), with German trans, reprinted in Opuscula selecta Neerlandicorum de arte medica , 11 (1932), 283–359.

Later writings are Oratio de debita cura infaustam maniacorum sortem emendandi eosque sanandi in nostra patria neglecta (Utrecht, 1837), with English trans, reprinted in Opuscula selecta Neerlandicorum de arte medica, 7 (1927), 294–352; “Anatomisch-physiologisch onderzoek over het fijnere zamenstel en de werking van het ruggemerg,” in Verhandelingen der Koninklijke akademnie van wetenschappen, 2 (1855); and “over hetfijnere zamenstel en de werking van het verlengde ruggemerg en over de naaste oorzaak van epilepsie en hare rationele behandeling,” ibid., 6 (1858). The last two were translated by W. D. Moore as On the Minute Structure and Functions of the Spinal Cord and Medulla Oblongata and On the Proximate Cause and Rational Treatment of Epilepsy (London, 1859). See also Handboek van de Pathologie en Therapie der Krankzinnigheid (Utrecht, 1863), with trans. by J. T. Rudall as The Pathology and Therapeutics of Mental Diseases (London, 1870). Schroeder van der Kolk’s lectures on physiology, “Physiologia corporis humani” (1840), are in G. ten Doesschate, J. L. C. Schroeder van der Kolk als physioloog (Utrecht, 1961).

II. Secondary Literature. On Schroeder van der Kolk and his work, see C. A. Pekelharing, in Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek, II (Leiden, 1912), col. 700–705; W. Vrolik, in Jaarboek van de Koninklijke Akademie van wetenschappen gevestigd te Amsterdam (1862), 161–191; and P. van der Kolk. 1797–1862. Leven en werken (Amsterdam, 1954), with an extensive bibliography, pp. 95–119.

H. A. M. Snelders

About this article

Schroeder van Der Kolk, Jacobus Ludovicus Conradus

Updated About content Print Article