Philipp Franz von Siebold

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Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold (February 17, 1796 – October 18, 1866) was a German physician and traveller. He was the first European to teach Western medicine in Japan. He obtained significance for his study of Japanese flora and fauna.



Early life

Born into a family of doctors and professors of medicine in Würzburg (then in the Bishopric of Würzburg), von Siebold initially studied medicine at University of Würzburg from November 1815, where he became a member of the Corps Moenania Würzburg. One of his professors was Franz Xaver Heller (1775–1840), author of the Flora Wirceburgensis ("Flora of the Grand Duchy of Würzburg", 1810–1811). Ignaz Döllinger (1770–1841), his professor of anatomy and physiology, however, most influenced him. Döllinger was one of the first professors to understand and treat medicine as a natural science. Von Siebold stayed with Döllinger, where he came in regular contact with other scientists. He read the books of Alexander von Humboldt, a famous naturalist and explorer, which likely raised his desire to travel to distant lands. Philipp von Siebold became a doctor by earning his M.D. in 1820. He initially practiced medicine in Heidingsfeld, Germany (now part of Würzburg).

Invited to Holland by an acquaintance of the family, von Siebold applied for a position as a military doctor. This position would enable him to travel to the Dutch colonies. He entered Dutch military service on June 19, 1822. He was appointed ship's doctor on the frigate Adriana on the voyage from Rotterdam to Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). On his trip to Batavia on the frigate Adriana, he practiced his knowledge of the Dutch language and rapidly learned Malay. During the long trip, von Siebold started a collection of marine fauna. He arrived in Batavia on February 18, 1823.

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