Biographical data


Lebeck, H.J.


(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 5: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement I)


Died: June 12, 1800, Java.



A Dutchman, son of the government secretary Lebeck. Evidently in the 1790s a regular visitor of C.P. Thunberg’s house. From his letters written to the latter1, it is evident that he was a resident of Sweden in the years 1794-95, and wanted to qualify himself in botany, signing as a friend and pupil; an acquaintance of Gröndahl (see there). In 1795 he got a valuable testamur of the Academy at Uppsala, and saw a possibility to be stationed at Coromandel and said to have good connections in Ceylon. As at the time no Dutch ships were sent to Ceylon because of the war, he finally decided to sail in a Swedish ship and left Göteborg Dec. 1795 with destination Bombay. In India he came into contact with Rev. Dr John, Rottler, and Klein, became (according to his own information) a honorary member of the learned society at Tranquebar (? United Brotherhood, cf. sub J.C. Koenig) and got a diploma of the ‘Naturforschende Freunde’ in Berlin. He made an overland journey to Madras, and was in Ceylon too. Since end 1798 he was at Batavia, as merchant, assay-master and mintmaster of the Dutch East India Company.

Besides plants, he collected insects, minerals, shells, snakes, birds, etc. Thunberg named the genus Lebeckia after him.



He sent collections to Thunberg, and in Herb. Thunberg (= Uppsala [UPS]) are numerous sheets from Coromandel, Tranquebar, Malabar, and also from Java. The latter must have been collected from end 1798-1800. Before his departure to Java he asked Thunberg for an introduction to his Dutch friends, promised him the first right to his collections and asked for equipment, chemicals, etc. he needed for collecting. In 1800 he sent plants and wrote (Apr. 15) of the difficulties for a beginner, as he nearly had described Nypa and Chamaerops as new, if he had not just in time discovered them in Rumphius!

His India plants were evidently sent to Rottler, who partly identified his collections together with Klein’s, and sent them to Vahl at Copenhagen [C] (probably with ships of the Danish East India Company), who would take care of further dispatch.



(1) Several MS letters in Dutch in Library University Uppsala.


biographical data:

All from the MS letters (see above); the Rijksarchief in The Hague could not find any information, nor the Commonwealth Relations Office in London.