Medicine Among the Dutch Mennonites

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Among the Dutch Mennonite ministers of the 17th and 18th centuries there was a striking number of medical doctors. One of the first leaders of the Dutch Anabaptists, Obbe Philips, had been a barber-surgeon, and even before the end of the 16th century some Dutch Mennonites attended the universities to obtain medical training. Among the first was Jan Willemsz (1583-1660), who obtained his doctor's degree about 1610. During the 17th and especially the 18th centuries there were many Mennonite physicians in Holland. Their unusually large number had two principal causes: first, the wealth the Dutch Mennonites had attained by this time enabled them to devote time and money to scholarly pursuits, and at the same time made them eager to partake in university "higher life"; second, they nonetheless still held to the old Mennonite view that talents should be made subservient to the welfare of one's fellow men; in brief, the ethical responsibility of faith caused them to choose medicine rather than, for example, law. Some of them were called to high positions; Govert Bidloo (1649-1713) became professor of anatomy at the University of Leiden and chief physician to stadholder King William III; his nephew Nicolaas Bidloo (born in 1670) became the personal physician of Tsar Peter the Great of Russia, and founder of the medical school at Moscow; and Matthias S. van Geuns (1735-1817) was a professor in the medical faculties of the universities of Harderwijk and Utrecht. A large number of the Mennonites who had studied medicine before the Seminary was founded were both physicians' and preachers. Particularly after about 1650 the congregations apparently demanded well-trained preachers, and yet wished to maintain the principle of the unsalaried ministry, and since university training seemed a guarantee of adequacy to the task of leading a Mennonite congregation, they often called physicians as preachers and elders. A few of the outstanding doctor-preachers were Jan Willemsz at De Rijp, Joannes de Backer at Amsterdam, Anthoni Jacobsz Roscius at Hoorn, Jacob Cornelis van Dalen at Amsterdam, Galenus Abrahamsz at Amsterdam, Jacob Ostens at Rotterdam, Antonius van Dale at Haarlem, Petrus Teckop at Leiden, Klaas Toornburg at De Rijp, Christoffel Tirion at Utrecht, Herman Schijn at Amsterdam, Willem Bosch at Haarlem, Gerardus de Wind at Middelburg, Abraham van Loon at Gouda, Maarten Harp at Den Ilp, Frederik Toger at Leiden, Jacobus van Zanten at Haarlem, Jan van Beekhoven de Wind at Haarlem, Johannes Nettis at Alkmaar, Petrus Belkmeer at Enschede, Pieter Schagen at Westzaan. After the founding of the Amsterdam Mennonite Theological Seminary in 1735, the physician preachers gradually disappeared. The last was Pieter Schagen.

The Mennonites of Amsterdam organized the Mennonite Public Health Association, which was actually a nursing service for all classes of people. Subscribers were entitled to six weeks of nursing service per year.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Medicine Among the Dutch Mennonites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 25 Jul 2024.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1957). Medicine Among the Dutch Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 July 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 553. All rights reserved.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.