Boeke, Jan

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Boeke, Jan Gender: M
born on 23 October 1874 at 07:30 (= 07:30 AM )
Place Hengelo, Netherlands, 52n16, 6e48
Timezone LMT m6e48 (is local mean time)
Data source
BC/BR in hand
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Gauquelin
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_libcol.18.gif 29°43' s_mo.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 01°15 Asc.s_scocol.18.gif 07°32'


Dutch biologist, morphologist and neurohistologist, Rector of the University of Utrecht, who held an holistic conception of the organism.

Boeke was the son of a Mennonite pastor Izak Herman Boeke (28 December 1846, Amsterdam - 27 July 1913, Den Haag) en Sara Maria van Gelder (1 March 1847, Amsterdam - 19 December 1929, Amsterdam)‏, who married 14 November 1872. Three sons became a professor. Julius Herman Boeke (15 Nov 1884, Wormerveer - 9 Jan 1956, Leiden) studied Jura and became an economist.

Jan Boeke followed the Gymnasium and studied medicine at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). As a student he was more interested in natural science than in a medical career. He became an assistant of the Dutch botanist Hugo de Vries, who independently discovered the Mendelian laws of heredity. In 1900 and 1901 he visited the famous Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Napoli, to study the embryological development of the Mediterranean moray (Roman eel, Muraena helena) and the histological build of the nervous system. On 2 July 1900 Boeke became a physician. On 9 July 1901 he dissertated with the thesis "Bijdrage tot de pharmacologie van het hart" (Contribution to the pharmacology of the heart) under the physiologist Th. Place. In this contribution to the pharmacology of the heart, he studied the effects of alcohol, muscarine and digitalis on the hearts of several species.

One might superficially think of his study of moray and their nervous systems as a weird, not for human beings relevant hobby, but a biological fact is that in early embryological life, human beings and other vertebrates resemble fishes and posses similar gill slits. Before him Darwin and others noted the striking similarity among embryos of complex animals such as humans, chickens, frogs, reptiles, and fish. The evolution from a single cell to a complex animal was seen back in the development of the embryo (recapitulation theory). But the in the watery environments needed gill slits become obsolete as soon as the umbilical cord starts to function, and after birth the lungs, so we are not aware of them. But before that the human embryo swims like a fish in the womb and could need them.

Biological observations like this are the subject of the discipline of comparative anatomy, that tries to explain the physiological functioning of living beings via their morphology.

On 1903 he worked as a researcher at the NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research in Den Helder. Her he met Alberta Cornelia Oortgijsen (17 Sept 1880, 23h30 Den Helder - 17 August 1960), whom he married in 3 January 1906 in Den Helder. In 1905 he went to Curaçao to study the fishing possibilities in the Caribic. In 1906 he became lector in histology, embryology and forensic medicine in Leiden. In 1909 he became professor in anatomy in Leiden.

On 10 Augustus 1918, he was elected in Utrecht as a professor in anatomy. He started 18 January 1919 and held 18 January 1919 the First Lecture "Celstaat en individualiteit" (Cell State and individuality). Jan Boeke was aware of the cellular pathologist Rudolf Virchov, who viewed the body as a holistic "Zell Staat" (Cell State), with the sensing and reacting brain as its government, having the immune system as a secret service and the muscles as its outside weapons. So the individual cells and organs relate to the body as individual people and societal groups to society. Now the great dualistic question was : Who is in charge? With the social democrat Virchov, Jan Boeke, having a religious view on nature took the holistic view and stated that healthy individual cells adopt to the totality, the whole they are part of and was thus challenging the classical and deterministic cell theory, that claims that if you know the properties of the individual cells, you can predict the behaviour of the organism as if it were a mechanical clock. .

From 1937 till 1938 and from 1945 till 1946 he was Rector Magnificus at Utrecht. During the war he had to hide for the German occupants as he was searched for because of illegal activities. One of his crimes was that he insisted on biological absurdity of the idea of one race constituting a people. The Jewish and German people contained several races and pure race's did not exist (J. Boeke, 'Iets over "rassen"'. Afkomst en Toekomst 5 (1939)). His family of five children was dispersed, his house was plundered and his unique collection of histological sections was smashed to pieces by the SD. His eldest and youngest child died in captivity. His brother, the economist Julius Herman Boeke was also arrested for publishing "Nationaalsocialistische staathuishoudkunde" in 1941, but survived from 10 Oct 1941 till 17 Sept 1944 Buchenwald. He became Rector Magnificus at Leiden.

He was a member of the Dutch KNAW since 1912, corresponding member of of the Belgian Academy in Brussel, the Swedish Academy in Upsala,and the German Academy of science. He became emeritus professor 16 September 1946, but kept on giving public lectures.

He died 12 September 1956 in "Kota Kembang" flower city Bandung, Indonesia, in the house of his son, who had just dissertated as a surgeon .


  • (has as) teacher relationship with De Vries, Hugo (born 16 February 1848)


  • Social : End a program of study 2 July 1900 in Amsterdam (became a physician)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 9 July 1901 in Amsterdam (thesis "Bijdrage tot de pharmacologie van het hart")
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Relationship : Marriage 3 January 1906 in Den Helder (Alberta Cornelia Oortgijsen (17 Sept 1880, 23h30 Den Helder))
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : New Job 10 August 1918 in Utrecht (elected as a professor in anatomy (succeeded Pekelharing).)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 18 January 1919 in Utrecht (First Lecture "Celstaat en individualiteit")
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1939 ('Iets over "rassen"'. Afkomst en Toekomst)
  • Work : Retired 16 September 1946 in Utrecht (Emeritus professor, but went on with public lectures)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.

Source Notes

Gauquelin Vol 2 Series A #2483

Catalogus Professorum - Prof Detail: Prof.dr. J. Boeke (1874 - 1956)

GC Heringa: Jan Boeke en zijn betekenis voor de neurohistologie

B. Theunissen: Jan Boeke en de harmonie van het organisme. Een case-study van het totaliteitsidee in de 20e-eeeuwsw Nedrlandse biologie. Tsch.Gesch.Gnk.Natuurw.Wisk.Techn. 11(1988)2


  • Traits : Personality : Principled strongly
  • Vocation : Education : Researcher
  • Vocation : Science : Biology
  • Notable : Famous : Top 5% of Profession (neurohistologist)