The Development of Quinine

Matthieu Kerbosh was born in a strong Catholic middle class family. His parents own a shop in Venlo selling household goods. Supported by the Schrijnen family he studied Pharmaceutics in Utrecht and graduated in Leiden, because the final examination took place on a Catholic saints day. He attained a doctorate. At university he met Marie Spiegel, with whom he married in 1912. Kerbosch became director of the quinine plantation Tjiniroean in West Java. This was one of the largest and most profitable quinine plantations.

The first seeds of the quinine tree had come from Peru, where it was discovered that water in which quinine bark had lain helped with fever. This wasn’t further developed in Peru. After 4 years the quinine seeds arrived in the Dutch Indies. The quinine developed on this plantation played an important role in the battle against malaria and tropical fevers. A planter van Gorkum played a key role in developing the Conchona Succirubra tree. This tree was resistant against root maladies. The stump of the tree was used to graft the more delicate Ledgeriana variety, which gave a high levels of quinine bark. So two good qualities were married into one. Van Gorkum gave young plants to other quinine plantations. Visitors received little bags of seed as a souvernir. Later it came out that this seed was planted successfully in the Belgian Congo. More about this in a later chapter about growing quinine.

In the period of the Ethical Politics Matthieu Kerbosch contributed to positive social changes, but profit always came first. He organised it that when there was a Malaria epidemic that the expensive quinine was available for lower prices. When the Company he worked for didn’t meet these promises he protested. Because of this incident he didn’t get the position of Director of the Quinine Office in Amsterdam, even though he was the most qualified person.

On one of his trip to the Netherlands he met the young 20 year old Pierre Schrijnen, who was studying Pharmaceutics without much success. He had a nick-name ‘Pierre Champagne’. Pierre was send to work on the plantation of Kerbosch. They left the Netherlands on 31 December 1921 and arrived in the Dutch Indies on 28th January 1922. He was appointed as agricultural assistant in the research department of the Government Quinine Plantation.

De cinchona pubescens var succirubra

The cinchona pubescens var succirubra

A poem written by Pierre Schrijnen on the tune of the Limburg’s national anthem in praise of his boss Mr Kerbosch.

He worked in this plantation until 1925, at age 25, where he was given the chance to become the development worker for a new part of the Government Quinine Plantation, which would be opened in the forest areas on the Pengalengan plateau.