Ten Rhyne, Willem

views updated


(b. Deventer, Netherlands, 1647: d. Batavia, Netherlands Indies [now Djakarta, Indonesia], 1 June 1700)

medicine, botany.

Little is known of the early life of ten Rhyne. After attending the Illustre School in Deventer, he studied medicine from about 1664 to 1666 at the University of Franeker. Then, in 1668, he went to the University of Leiden, where he studied under Sylvius and became an adherent of his iatrochemical school. In 1668 he received his medical degree with the dissertation De dolore intestinorum a flatu. In 1669 he published an essay on gout, Dissertatio de arthritide, and a treatise on a text of Hippocrates in which he also discussed a number of salts.

In June 1673 ten Rhyne left for Batavia to serve as physician to the Dutch East India Company. During a twenty-six-day stay at the Cape of Good Hope (October-November 1673), he studied the flora and fauna of the area and also the Hottentots. He published his findings in Schediasma de promontorio Bonae Speï, ejusque tractus incolis Hottentottis (1686).

Ten Rhyne arrived in Batavia in January 1674 and in addition to his medical duties he gave anatomy lessons to the local surgeons. He was soon sent by the company to the trading station on Decima in the harbor at Nagasaki. There was a surgeon at Decima, but the emperor had requested that the Dutch East India Company also bring out a qualified physician. Ten Rhyne served in Japan from 1674 until 1676, when he returned to Batavia. In 1677 he was appointed governor of the leper colony. From 1679 until 1681 he was physician on the west coast of Sumatra and from 1681 until his death he was a member of the judicature in Batavia.

During the two years in Japan, ten Rhyne studied tea culture, describing the tea plant, the manufacture and use of tea, and the influence of the stimulant on the body. His findings were published in Jacob Breyn’s Exoticarum plantarum centuria prima (1678). In this same work of Breyn’s, ten Rhyne also gave complete descriptions of the Japanese camphor tree and the plants he had collected at the Cape of Good Hope.

As a result of his work on tropical flora, Hendrik Adriaan van Reede tot Drakestein asked ten Rhyne to collaborate with him on the Hortus Malabaricus, which appeared in Amsterdam in twelve volumes between 1679 and 1703.

In 1687 ten Rhyne published his classic work on leprosy: Verhandelingen van de Asiatise melaatsheid (“Treatise on Asiatic Leprosy”). He presented an excellent description of the disease and gave an account of its etiology, prophylaxis, and therapy, which is still valid.

Ten Rhyne also published a work (1683) on the practice of acupuncture in Japan.


I. Original Works. Ten Rhyne’s major works are Dissertatio de dolore intestinorum a flatu (Leiden, 1668); Dissertatio de arthritide (Leiden, 1669); Meditationes in Hippocratis textum vigesimum quartum de veteri medicina, cum laciniis de salium figuris (Leiden, 1669, 2nd ed., 1672); “Excerpta ex observationibus Japonicis de fructice thee, cum fasciculo rariorum plantarum ab ipso inpromontorio Bonae Speï et Sardanha sinu anno 1673 collectarum, atque demum ex India anno 1677 in Europam ad Jacobum Breynium transmissarum,” in Jacob Breyn, Exoticarum plantarum centuria prima (Danzig, 1678); Dissertatio de arthritide, mantissa schenatica de acupunctura, orationes tres de chymiae etbotanicae antiquitate et dignitate, de physiognomia, et de monstris (London-The Hague, 1683; 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1690); Schediasma de promontorio Bonae Speï, ejusque tractus incolis Hottentottis (Schaffhausen, 1686); and Verhandelingen van de Asiatise melaatsheid (Amsterdam, 1687), reprinted with English translation in Opuscula Selecta Neerlandicorum de arte medica, 14 (1937), 34–113.

II. Secondary Literature. On ten Rhyne and his work, see A. J. van der Aa, Biographisch Woordenboek der Nederlande, X (Haarlem, 1874), 96; H. Kronenberg, Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek, VI (Leiden, 1924), 1213; L. S. von Römer, ibid., IX (Leiden, 1933), 861–863; and J. M. H. van Dorssen, “Willem ten Rhyne,” in Geneeskundig tijdschrift voor Nederlandsch-Indië, 51 (1911), 134–228.

H. A. M. Snelders