SOUTH AFRICA TABLET 6: Jan van Riebeek selected as head of the coming settlement in South Africa

by Time Traveler

Nicolaas Proot having declined the offer of the directors, they selected as the head of the settlement about to be formed in South Africa an officer who had been previously a surgeon in their service. His name, according to modern spelling, was Jan van Riebeek, but he himself wrote it Johan van Riebeeck, and it is found in the records of his time also spelt Riebeecq and Rietbeek, the last of which forms shows the origin of the word.

A ship's surgeon of those days was required to possess some skill in dressing wounds and to have a slight knowledge of medicine, but was not educated as a physician is now. Very often a copying clerk or a soldier, with no other training than that of an assistant in a hospital, if he had aptitutde for the duties of a surgeon, was promoted to the office.

Mr. Van Riebeek was of this class, but he was nevertheless a man of considerable ability, who let no opportunity of acquiring knowledge escape him. A little, fiery-tempered, resolute man, in the prime of life, with perfect health, untiring energy, and unbounded zeal, he was capable of performing a great amount of useful work. No better officer indeed could have been selected for the task that was to be taken in hand, where culture and refinement would have been out of place.

He had been a great voyager, and had seen many countries. The directors placed in his hands the document drawn up by Janssen, that he might comment upon it, which he did at some length.

Reference: History and Ethnography of Africa South of the Zambesi by George McCall Theal.