Kaempfer, Engelbert

, an eminent traveller, was born Sept. 16, 1651, at Lemgow in Westphalia, where his father was a minister. After studying in several towns, and making a quick progress, not only in the learned languages, but also in history, geography, and music, vocal and instrumental, he went to Dantzick, where he made some stay, and gave the first public specimen of his proficiency by a dissertation “De Divisione Majestatis,” in 1673. He then went to Thorn, and thence to the university of Cracow; where, for three years, studying philosophy and foreign languages, he took the degree of doctor in philosophy; and then went to Koningsberg, in Prussia, where he stayed four years. All this while he applied himself very intensely to physic and natural history. He next travelled to Sweden, where he soon recommended himself to the university of Upsal, and to the court of Charles XI. a great encourager of learning; insomuch that great offers were made him, upon condition that he would settle there. But he chose to accept the employment of secretary of the embassy, which the court of Sweden was then sending to the sophi of Persia; and in this capacity he set out from Stockholm, March 20, 1683. He went through Aaland, Finland, and Ingermanland, to Narva, where he met Fabricius the ambassador, with whom he arrived at Moscow the 7th of July. The negociations at the Russian court being ended, they proceeded on to Persia; but had like to have been lost in their passage over the Caspian sea, by an unexpected storm and the unskilfulness of their pilots. During their stay in Georgia, Kaempfer went in search of simples, and of all the curiosities that could be met with in those parts. He visited all the neighbourhood or Siamachi; and to these laborious and learned excursions we owe the many curious and accurate accounts he has given us in his “Amrenitates Exoticae,” published at Lemgow, in 1712. | Fabricius arrived at Ispahan in Jan. 1684, and stayed there near two years; during all which time of his abode in the capital of the Persian empire, Ksempfer made every possible advantage. The ambassador, having ended his negociations towards the close of 1685, prepared to return into Europe; but Kaempfer did not judge it expedient to return with him, resolving to go farther into the east, and make still greater acquisitions by travelling. With this view he entered into the service of the Dutch East-India company, in the quality of chief surgeon to the fleet, which was then cruising in the Persian Gulph, but set out for Gamron Nov. 1685, He stayed some time in Sijras, where he visited the remains of the ancient Persepolis, and the royal palace of Darius, whose scattered ruins are still an undeniable monument of its former splendor and greatness. As soon as he arrived at Gamron he was seized with a violent fit of sickness, which was near carrying him off; but, happily recovering, he spent a summer in the neighbourhood of it, and made a great number of curious observations. He did not leave that city till June 1688, and then embarked for Batavia; whither, after touching at many Dutch settlements, in Arabia Felix, on the coasts of Malabar, in the island of Ceylon, and in the gulph of Bengal, he arrived in September. This city having been so particularly described by other writers, he turned his thoughts chiefly to the natural history of the country about it. He possessed many qualifications necessary for making a good botanist; he had a competent knowledge of it already, a body inured to hardships, a great stock of industry, and an excellent hand at designing. In May 1690, he set out from Batavia on his voyage to Japan, in quality of physician to the embassy, which the Dutch East-India company used to send once a year to the Japanese emperor’s court; and he spent two years in this country, making all the while. most diligent researches into every thing relating to it. He quitted Japan in order to return to Europe, Nov. 1692, and Batavia, Feb. 1693. He stayed near a month at the Cape of Good- Hope, and arrived at Amsterdam in October.

April 1694, he took a doctor of physic’s degree at Leyden, on which occasion he communicated, in his thesis, some very singular observations, which we shall presently notice. At his return to his native country he intended immediately to digest his papers and memoirs into proper | order; but, being appointed physician to his prince, he fell into too much practice to pursue that design with the vigour he desired. He married the daughter of an eminent merchant at Stolzenau in 1700. The long course of travels, the fatigue of his profession, and some family-uneasinesses, arising (as it is said) from the debts he had contracted, had very much impaired his constitution; so that, after a variety of ailments, he died Nov. 2, 1716.

His inaugural dissertation, before noticed, and published at Leyden in 1694, is entitled “Decas observationum exoticarum.” Of this an unique copy is preserved in Sir James Smith’s library. The subjects on which it treats are, 1, the agnus Scythicus, or Borometz; 2, the bitterness of the Caspian sea; 3, of the native mumia, or bitumen, of Persia 4, of the torpedo, or electrical fish of the Persian gulph 5, of the drug called dragon’s blood, produced by the fruit of a palm 6, of the dracunculus of the Persians, a sort of worm proceeding from a tumour in the skin; 7, on the andrum, or endemic hydrocele of the Malabars; 8, on the perical, or ulcer of the feet among the same people; 9, on the cure of the colic amongst the Japanese by puncture with a needle; 10, on the moxa, or actual cautery, of the same people and the Chinese. These subjects are, as Haller observes, all of them probably treated more fully, in his “Amcenitates Exoticoe,” so often quoted by Linn Sb us for its botany, as well as other authors for its authentic details, relating to the history and manners of Persia, and other parts of the east. His History of Japan is well known by the English translation in folio, and is extremely valued for its accuracy and fidelity. It was published in 2 vols. fol. Lond. 1728. Kcempfer, we have remarked, was skilled in the use of the pencil; and some botanical drawings of his, made in Japan, are preserved in the British museum. Of these sir Joseph Banks, in 1791, liberally presented the learned world with 59 folio engravings at his own expence. Many of the plants are still undetermined by systematic botanists. 1

1 Niceron, vol. XIX. Gen. Dict. —Moreri. —Haller, Bibl. Bot. —Rees’s Cyclopedia. Life prefixed to his History of Japan.