Lives of the fellows

Gerrit Arie Lindeboom

b.4 January 1905 d.5 June 1986
DM Amsterdam(1929) FRCP(1974)

Gerrit Lindeboom was born in Ridderkerk, Netherlands, where his father, Cornelius Lindeboom, was a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church. His mother, Anthonia Margareta, was the daughter of Gerrit Arie de Jong, also a minister of the church. All through his life Gerrit Lindeboom stuck firmly to the Calvinistic principles in which he was reared. He was educated at the Gereformeerd Gymnasium, Amsterdam and Kampen, and the University of Amsterdam, pursuing his clinical work at the Wilhelmina Gasthuis, Amsterdam. On qualification he obtained a house post under I Snapper at the Wilhelmina Gasthuis, and specialized in internal medicine and radiology. In 1934 he established a practice in Amsterdam.

During the second world war, when there was a shortage of hospital beds, he founded a private clinic. The Germans had occupied the country and there was a severe shortage of almost everything. But Lindeboom’s boundless energy and perseverance ensured that the 80-bed clinic survived, and prospered rapidly in the post-war years. When the Free University of Amsterdam (Calvinist) established a medical school in 1950, Lindeboom’s clinic became its first department of internal medicine and he was appointed professor of general pathology, clinical propaedeutics, and the encyclopaedia of medical sciences. Four years later he also became professor of internal medicine. He was an outstanding clinician and a pioneer in the use of radioactive materials for diagnostic purposes.

In 1939 he married Catharina Sophia Kruysveldt, a physician. There were no children of the marriage; their son being adopted.

Lindeboom was an eminent medical historian in the Netherlands. From his student days onwards he was interested in the history, philosophy and ethics of medicine. When he became a professor he founded the Medical Encyclopaedic Institute, encompassing the three disciplines. He also arranged that courses in these disciplines should be obligatory for medical students, a novelty at that time in the Netherlands. When medical philosophy and ethics became independent disciplines this Institute, although continuing to carry its original name, became a department of medical history; the first of its kind at any university in Holland. Lindeboom became its first director, a position he held in conjunction with his other commitments. He was made a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion in 1968.

He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1974, and retired from his clinical assignments in 1975, but continued in his post as director of the Institute.

Lindeboom was a born teacher. His courses and conferences on the history of medicine attracted audiences from all over the country and greatly enhanced the prestige of the discipline. His lectures could be brilliant. Even his clinical teachings were enlivened with historical details. His successor in the chair of medicine, C Vermeer, in his biographical introductory chapter to the Festschrift presented to Lindeboom upon his becoming a septuagenarian, aptly wrote: ‘He lived simultaneously in the past and the present’.

Gerrit Lindeboom was a prolific writer. He wrote some 50 monographs, more than 180 medical publications, and almost 300 publications on medical history and ethics. These were, for the greater part, written in somewhat archaic but beautiful Dutch. He did not always have good translators for his English publications. His main medical-historical publications were on Boerhaave, which earned him international recognition. His masterpiece was undoubtedly Herman Boerhaave: The Man and his work, London, Metheun, 1968, a scholarly work of 452 pages which took him many years to prepare.

Lindeboom should be regarded as a medical historian of distinction, who happily combined his interest in medical history with clinical practice in the firm belief that the one complemented the other. He served on many committees and several editorial boards.

He had a strong-willed, dominant personality which made him somewhat difficult to deal with, but one had to admire his talents and achievements, and his formidable zest for work.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Bull.Hist.Med, 1986,No 4,60,559-60]

(Volume VIII, page 283)

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