Cornelis Bontekoe

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Cornelis Bontekoe (1640/1647 in Alkmaar – 13 January 1685 in Berlin), whose real name was Cornelis Dekker, was a Dutch physician known also as a popular essayist, particularly on tea, and editor of the works of Arnold Geulincx. He applied what were generally Cartesian theories in medicine, but with innovations such as a purely hydraulic and muscular explanation of the mechanism of the heart.[1]


In an itinerant and stormy life, Bontekoe, who took his pseudonym from the spotted cow on the sign of his Mennonite father Gerrit Dekker’s grocery shop in Alkmaar, courted controversy and agitated for reform and more modern thinking in medicine. He studied first at the University of Leiden under Franciscus Sylvius and Geulincx, graduating M.D. in 1667. In conflict with the medical men of Alkmaar, he moved his practice. He studied for a second period at Leiden from 1674, where Theodoor Craanen was teaching. His vocal opposition to Aristotelian teaching saw him banned at Leiden, with Johannes Swartenhengst, in 1675. He was, however, readmitted in 1676 to the university, where his follower Heydentryk Overcamp graduated M.D. in 1677.

Bontekoe's Tractaat advocating tea-drinking appeared in 1678, and made his reputation. Via Amsterdam he moved to Hamburg, where he wrote a work against the concept of climacteric year, which he dedicated to Frederick William I, Elector of Brandenburg. The Elector rewarded him with positions as court physician and as professor at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder.

Bontekoe moved to Prussia. He had patients in Berlin-Cölln and died there, after an accident related to his copious tea-drinking.


  • Wiep van Bunge et al. (editors), The Dictionary of Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Dutch Philosophers (2003), Thoemmes Press (two volumes), article Bontekoe, Cornelis, p. 128–132.
  • Cornelis Bontekoe (1647 – 1685) at the Spinoza website.


  1. ^ Thomas Fuchs and Marjorie Glicksman Grene, The Mechanization of the Heart: Harvey and Descartes (2001), p. 154; Google Books.