Rembert Dodoens

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Rembert Dodoens
Rembert Dodoens00.jpg
Rembert Dodoens, by Theodor de Bry, in Bibliotheca chalcographica (1669)
Born29 June 1517
Died10 March 1585(1585-03-10) (aged 67)
Resting placePieterskerk, Leiden
Alma materUniversity of Leuven
Known forHerbal
  • Kathelijne de Bruyn (1539–1572)
  • Maria Saerinen
Scientific career
FieldsMedicine, botany
InstitutionsMechelin, Vienna, Leiden University
InfluencesOtto Brunfels, Jerome Bock, Leonhard Fuchs
Author abbrev. (botany)Dodoens

Rembert Dodoens (born Rembert Van Joenckema, 29 June 1517 – 10 March 1585) was a Flemish physician and botanist, also known under his Latinized name Rembertus Dodonaeus. The standard author abbreviation Dodoens is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.[1]


Dodoens was born Rembert van Joenckema in Mechelen, a town between Antwerp and Brussels and capital of the Spanish Netherlands, in 1517 to Denis Van Joenckema (d. 1533) and Ursula Roelants. The van Joenckema family and name were Frisian in origin. In Friesland they were active in politics and jurisprudence, and in 1516 moved to Mechelen.[2] His father was one of the municipal physicians in Mechelen and had been one of the private physicians to Margaret of Austria, Governor of the Netherlands, in her final illness, whose court was based in Mechelen.[3] Rembert later changed his last name to Dodoens (literally "Son of Dodo", a form of his father's name, Denis or Doede).

He was educated at the municipal college in Mechelen before beginning his studies in medicine, cosmography and geography at the age of 13 at the University of Leuven (Louvain), under Arnold Noot, Leonard Willemaer, Jean Heems, and Paul Roelswhere. He graduated with a licentiate in medicine in 1535, and as was the custom of the time, began extensive travels (Wanderjahren) in Europe till 1546, including Italy, Germany, and France. In 1539 he married Kathelijne De Bruyn (1517–1572), who came from a medical family in Mechelen. With her he had four children, Ursula (b. 1544), Denijs (b. 1548), Antonia and Rembert Dodoens.[4] He had a short stay in Basel (1542–1546). In 1557, Dodoens turned down a chair at the University of Leuven. He also turned down an offer to become court physician of king Philip II of Spain. After his wife's death at the age of 55 in 1572, he married Maria Saerinen by whom he had a daughter, Johanna.[5] He died in Leiden in 1585, and was buried at Pieterskerk, Leiden.[6][7][2]


Portret of Rembert Dodoens. Preserved in the Ghent University Library.[8]

After graduation, he eventually established himself as one of the three municipal physicians in Mechelen, as his father had been, together with Joachim Roelandts and Jacob De Moor, in 1548.[2][9] He became the court physician of the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian II, and his successor, Austrian emperor Rudolph II in Vienna (1575–1578). In 1582, he finally became professor in medicine at the University of Leiden in 1582.[6]

Life and times[edit]

At the opening of the sixteenth century the general belief was that the plant world had been completely described by Dioscorides, in his De Materia Medica. During Dodoens' lifetime, botanical knowledge was undergoing enormous expansion, partly fueled by the expansion of the known plant world by New World exploration, the discovery of printing and the use of wood-block illustration. This period is thought of as a botanical Renaissance. Europe became engrossed with natural history from the 1530s, and gardening and cultivation of plants became a passion and prestigious pursuit from monarchs to universities. The first botanical gardens appeared as well as the first illustrated botanical encyclopaedias, together with thousands of watercolours and woodcuts. The experience of farmers, gardeners, foresters, apothecaries and physicians was being supplemented by the rise of the plant expert. Collecting became a discipline, specifically the Kunst- und Wunderkammern (cabinets of curiosities) outside of Italy and the study of naturalia became widespread through many social strata. The great botanists of the sixteenth century were all, like Dodoens, originally trained as physicians, who pursued a knowledge of plants not just for medicinal properties, but in their own right. Chairs in botany, within medical faculties were being established in European universities throughout the sixteenth century in reaction to this trend, and the scientific approach of observation, documentation and experimentation was being applied to the study of plants.[10]

Otto Brunfels published his Herbarium in 1530, followed by those of Jerome Bock (1539) and Leonhard Fuchs (1542), men that Kurt Sprengel would later call the “German fathers of botany”. These men all influenced Dodoens, who was their successor.[10]


Dodoens' initial work was in the fields of cosmography and physiology. His De frugum historia (1552), a treatise on cereals, vegetables, and fodders [11] marked the beginning of a distinguished career in botany, and his herbal Cruydeboeck (herb book) with 715 images (1554, 1563)[12] was influenced by earlier German botanists, particularly that of Leonhart Fuchs. Rather than the traditional method of arranging the plants in alphabetical order, he divided the plant kingdom into six groups (Deel), based on their properties and affinities. It treated in detail especially the medicinal herbs, which made this work, in the eyes of many, a pharmacopoeia. This work and its various editions and translations became one of the most important botanical works of the late 16th century, part of its popularity being his use of the vernacular rather than the commonly used Latin.[2][6]

Cruydeboeck was translated first into French in 1557 by Charles de L'Ecluse (Histoire des Plantes),[13] and into English (via L'Ecluse) in 1578 by Henry Lyte (A new herbal, or historie of plants), and later into Latin in 1583 (Stirpium historiae pemptades sex).[14] The English version became a standard work in that language. In his times, it was the most translated book after the Bible. It became a work of worldwide renown, used as a reference book for two centuries.[a][15]

His Latin translation of 1583, the Stirpium or Pemtdades, was also a considerable revision, adding new families, enlarging the number of groups from 6 to 26 and including many new illustrations, both original and borrowed. It was used by John Gerard as the source for his widely used Herball (1597).[16][6] Thomas Johnson, in his preface to his 1633 edition of Herball, explains the controversial use of Dodoens' work by Gerard.[b][16]

List of selected publications[edit]

Title page of Crvydt-Boeck (1644 ed.)

 see Vande Walle 2001a

  • Dodoens, Rembert (1533). Herbarium.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • — (1543). Den Nieuwen Herbarius.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • — (1548). Cosmographica in astronomiam et geographiam isagoge.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
    • (1584) De sphaera sive de astronomiae et geographiae principiis cosmographica isagoge. Antwerp (2nd ed.)
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1552). De frugum historia, liber unus. Ejusdem epistolae duae, una de Fare, Chondro, Trago, Ptisana, Crimno et Alica; altera de Zytho et Cerevisia. Antwerp.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1554). Trium priorum de stirpium historia commentariorum imagines.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1554). Posteriorum trium de stirpium historia commentariorum imagines.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1554). Des Cruydboeks (in Dutch and Latin) (1st ed.). Antwerp: J. van der Loe.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link), also at Teylers Museum
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1566). Historia frumentorum, leguminum, palustrium et aquatilium herbarum acceorum, quae eo pertinent.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)[d]
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1574). Purgantium aliarumque eo facientium, tam et radicum, convolvulorum ac deletariarum herbarum historiae libri IIII.... Accessit appendix variarum et quidem rarissimarum nonnullarum stirpium, ac florum quorumdam peregrinorum elegantissimorumque icones omnino novas nec antea editas, singulorumque breves descriptiones continens... [On purgatives] (in Latin). Antwerp: Christophe Plantin.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) 2nd ed. 1576, see also Aboca Museum
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1550). Physiologices medicinae tabulae.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Dodoens, Rembert (1581). Medicinalium observationum exempla rara.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • — (1583) [1554]. Stirpium historiae pemptades sex, sive libri XXX [Crvyd-boeck] (in Latin). Antwerp: Plantini.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)


  • Praxis medica (1616)
  • Remberti Dodonaei Mechilensis ... stirpium historiae pemptades sex, sive libri XXX : varie ab Auctore, paullo ante Mortem, aucti & emendati. Antverpiae : Moretus / Plantin, 1616 Digital edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf.
  • Ars medica, ofte ghenees-kunst (1624)
  • Cruydt-Boeck (1644) (13th, last and most comprehensive edition, 5th Flemish ed.)

Works in translation[edit]


Photo of statue of Dodoens in the botanical garden in Mechelen
Statue of Dodoens, Botanical Garden, Mechelen

Dodoens has been called the father of botany.[f] Dodoens life and work is commemorated by this statue, in the Botanical Garden of Mechelen. There is also a commemorative plaque at St Peter's church, Leiden, where he is buried.


The plant genus Dodonaea was named after Dodoens, by Carl Linnaeus. The following species are also named after him: Epilobium dodonaei,: Comocladia dodonaea, Phellandrium dodonaei, Smyrnium dodonaei, Hypericum dodonaei and Pelargonium dodonaei .


  1. ^ Het Cruijdeboeck, dat in 1554 verscheen. Dit meesterwerk was na de bijbel in die tijd het meest vertaalde boek. Het werd gedurende meer dan een eeuw steeds weer heruitgegeven en gedurende meer dan twee eeuwen was het het meest gebruikte handboek over kruiden in West-Europa. Het is een werk van wereldfaam en grote wetenschappelijke waarde. De nieuwe gedachten die Dodoens erin neerlegde, werden de bouwstenen voor de botanici en medici van latere generaties. (The Cruijdeboeck, published in 1554. This masterpiece was, after the bible, the most translated book in that time. It continued to be republished for more than a century and for more than two centuries it was the mostly used referential about herbs. It is a work with world fame and great scientific value. The new thoughts written down by Dodoens, became the building bricks for botanists and physicians of later generations)[15]
  2. ^ Rembertus Dodoneus a Physition borne at Mechlin in Brabant, about this time begun to write of Plants. Hee first set foorth a Historie in Dutch, which by Clusius was turned into French, with some additions, Anno Domini 1560. And this was translated out of French into English by Master Henry Lite, and set forth with figures, Anno Dom. 1578 and diuers times since printed, but without Figures… Afterwards hee put them all together, his former, and those his later Workes, and diuided into thirtie Bookes, and set them forth with 1305 figures, in fol. An. 1583. This edition was also translated into English.[16]
  3. ^ Cruydeboek: Illustrations by Pieter van der Borcht[17]
  4. ^ Historia frumentorum: Pieter van der Borcht made 60 drawings of plants for this herbarium that was published by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp[17]
  5. ^ Histoire des plantes ran to 27 editions[18]
  6. ^ "Dodoens qui est incontestablement le père de la botanique"[18]



Books and articles[edit]



External links[edit]