The Japanese neurology was Dutch in origin

Akira Takahashi

In Japan, the term "Dutch Studies" signifies the study of Dutch or of Western sciences through the medium of the Dutch language, because Japan strictly closed the country to foreigners except for the Dutch and Chinese in the days of the Tokugawa regime for about 200 years (1639-1858). During this period, Japanese neurology made a start. At the beginning, neuro-anatomical terminology was one of the most important problems awaiting solution. As a preliminary step towards introduction of modern medicine from Europe, several commercial interpreters in Nagasaki devoted themselves to the translation of Dutch medical textbooks into Japanese. Chinzan Narabayashi (1648-1711), a Dutch-Japanese interpreter, learned surgery from several Dutch surgeons at Nagasaki. He translated a medical textbook of the Dutch translation of the work of Amboise Paré by Carolus Battus. In this translation, there was no satisfactory Japanese term equivalent for the Dutch word "zenuw" ("nerve" in English). In 1774, five Dutch scolars in Edo (Tokyo at present) (Gempaku Sugita, Ryotaku Maeno et al.) translated the Dutch version of a German textbook Anatomische Tabellen published under the title of Kaitai Shinsho (A New Textbook of Human Anatomy). In this book, the Dutch terminology "zenuw" was translated into Japanese as "shinkei":"shin-" means "spirit or activity", and "-kei" means "string", i.e. "spirit transmitted through a string". This rousing publication on the human anatomy exerted a fruitful influence on the remaining Japanese neurology.

Poster Session I
Friday, 20 June 1997, 12.15 - 12.45

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands