A Brill Calendar: May 27
Holland's History Book
Few books covering the history of The Netherlands found so sympathetic an audience as ‘Erflaters van onze beschaving’ did.
In it, a married couple, Jan Romein & Annie Verschoor, both historians, present in 36 substantial biographical essays, the history of the northern Low Countries since the 14th century, starting with a great regent, Filips van Leyden (ca. 1325 – 1382) and ending with a great poet, Herman Gorter (1864 – 1927). The first edition dates from 1938 – 1940; and their matrimonial effort is still in print. It is rare for any Dutch book to stay readily available for more than one generation.
One of the exemplary individuals listed is an ophthalmologist: Franciscus Cornelis Donders (Tilburg, Brabant May 27 1818 – Utrecht, March 24 1889), a leading Dutch physiologist during the 19th century and a European celebrity in widely ranging scholarly pursuits. Less than a third of the men & women canonized by the Romeins may be seen as scholars; Jan Swammerdam and Herman Boerhaave are their only other protagonists serving Asklepios.
Graduating from Leyden as medical doctor in 1840, Donders became Professor at Utrecht University in 1847. His inaugural lecture contained a crucial constituent of Darwin’s theory of evolution published ten years later.
It is seldom considered how fundamentally genuine width of scientific and scholarly learning contributes to progress in sciences & humanities in Victorian times. It characterizes Donders that the ‘Koninklijke Nederlandse Academie van Wetenschappen’ (Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, KNAW) flourished during his presidency of 18 years internationally like never before. Add to that, that this tall & handsome man was a polyglot, born organizer, cum superb teacher, and the Shakespearean assessment is fit: Donders’s was ‘a charmed life’.
2013, May 17
2013, April 11
2013, April 11