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Wilhelm Ten Rhijne (1647-1700)

Ten Rhijne was a Dutch physician who was stationed at a Dutch East India Company trading post in Japan. In 1863 he introduced the first substantial work on acupuncture into Europe.

After completing his medical studies at Leiden, in 1673 Ten Rhijne travelled from Holland and arrived at Deshima, a small island off the coast of Japan. At the time, this was the only foreign trading post allowed by the Japanese. He spent two years in Japan, where he studied Japanese culture, medicine and botany. Despite strict controls on foreign movements within the country, he made contacts with other Dutch and Japanese physicians.

In 1676, Ten Rhijne travelled to Java, then a Dutch colony. He spent the rest of his life there, working on diseases such as leprosy.

Ten Rhijne’s 1683 essay ‘De acupuntura’ was written in Latin. It focused on practical acupuncture and moxibustion techniques rather than the theory behind them. Over the next several centuries, acupuncture went repeatedly in and out of fashion in Europe. Practitioners experimented with its effects, and tried to find a model to explain it in terms of their own understanding of the body.



W Nitske, The life of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, discoverer of the X ray (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1971)

B Holtzmann-Kevles, Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997)

E Burrows, Pioneers and Early Years: A History of British Radiology (Aldeney: Colophon, 1986)

A Michetter and S Pfauntsch, (eds) X-rays: The First Hundred Years (London: Wiley, 1996)



A chronic disease that affects the skin, mucous membrane and nerves. It is now confined mainly to the tropics and is transmitted by direct contact. Previously a widely feared disease, leprosy is not highly infectious.