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Bernhardus Varenius

Bernhardus Varenius

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Bernhardus Varenius (1622, Hitzacker
Hitzacker
Hitzacker is a town in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district of Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated on the river Elbe, approx. 8 km north of Dannenberg, and 45 km east of Lüneburg. The 2007 population of Hitzacker was 4,982, and its postal code is 29456. The mayor is Karl Guhl...

, Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony is a German state situated in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany...

 – 1650) was a German geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

.

Life


His early years (from 1627) were spent at Uelzen
Uelzen
Uelzen is a town in northeast Lower Saxony, Germany, and capital of the county of Uelzen. It is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region, a Hanseatic town and an independent municipality....

, where his father was court preacher to the duke of Brunswick
Brunswick-Lüneburg
The Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , or more properly Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, was an historical ducal state from the late Middle Ages until the late Early Modern era within the North-Western domains of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, in what is now northern Germany...

. Varenius studied at the gymnasium of Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 (1640-1642), and at Königsberg (1643-1645) and Leiden (1645-1649) universities, where he devoted himself to mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, taking his medical degree at Leiden in 1649. He then settled at Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, intending to practice medicine. But the recent discoveries of Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman
Abel Janszoon Tasman was a Dutch seafarer, explorer, and merchant, best known for his voyages of 1642 and 1644 in the service of the VOC . His was the first known European expedition to reach the islands of Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand and to sight the Fiji islands...

, Willem Schouten
Willem Schouten
Willem Cornelisz Schouten was a Dutch navigator for the Dutch East India Company. He was the first to sail the Cape Horn route to the Pacific Ocean.- Biography :Willem Cornelisz Schouten was born in c...

 and other Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 navigator
Navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...

s, and his friendship for Willem Blaeu
Willem Blaeu
Willem Janszoon Blaeu , also abbreviated to Willem Jansz. Blaeu, was a Dutch cartographer, atlas maker and publisher....

 and other geographers, attracted Varenius to geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

. He died in 1650, aged only twenty-eight, a victim to the privations and miseries of a poor scholar's life.

Works


In 1649 he published, through L. Elzevir of Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, his Descriptio Regni Japoniae. In this was included a translation into Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 of part of Jodocus Schouten's account of Siam (Appendix de religione Siamensium, ex Descriptione Belgica Iodoci Schoutenii), and chapters on the religions of various peoples. Next year (1650) appeared, also through Elzevir, the work by which he is best known, his Geographia Generalis, in which he endeavoured to lay down the general principles of the subject on a wide scientific basis, according to the knowledge of his day. The work is divided into(1) absolute geography, (2) relative geography and (3) comparative geography. The first investigates mathematical facts relating to the earth as a whole, its figure, dimensions, motions, their measurement, etc. The second part considers the earth as affected by the sun and stars, climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

s, season
Season
A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight.Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution...

s, the difference of apparent time at different places, variations in the length of the day, etc. The third part treats briefly of the actual divisions of the surface of the earth, their relative positions, globe and map-construction, longitude
Longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

, navigation, etc.

Varenius, with the materials at his command, dealt with the subject of geography in a truly philosophic spirit; and his work long held its position as the best treatise in existence on scientific and comparative geography. The work went through many editions. Sir Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 introduced several important improvements into the Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 edition of 1672; in 1715 James Jurin
James Jurin
James Jurin FRS MA FRCP MD was an English scientist and physician, particularly remembered for his early work in capillary action and in the epidemiology of smallpox vaccination...

 issued another Cambridge edition with a valuable appendix; in 1733 the whole work was translated into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 by Dugdale; and in 1736 Dugdale's second edition was revised by Shaw. In 1716 an Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 edition appeared at Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

; in 1750 a Dutch translation followed; and, in 1755 a French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 version, from Shaw's edition, came out at Paris. Among later geographers d'Anville and Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt...

especially drew attention to Varen's genius and services to science.