Cornelia Catharina de Lange

Cornelia Catharina de Lange was born in June 24, 1871 in Alkmaar and is a Dutch paediatrician. She was a remarkable woman who fought the prejudice against women in the 1800s and managed to complete her studies to become a physician. She was at the forefront of education for women in the Netherlands.

This was not easy to accomplish, as views during that era deemed the medical profession inappropriate for women. Her father had initially wanted her to study chemistry and she obeyed his wishes. Cornelia Catharina de Lange started off with chemical studies at the University of Amsterdam in 1891, but switched courses six months later, when her father had changed his opinion of his daughter's wishes to be trained as a medical doctor. Hence, Cornelia Catharina de Lange graduated in medicine in 1897 and she was also conferred doctor of medicine on the very same year.

During her outstanding career as a physician, Cornelia Catharina de Lange spent half a century improving the standard and quality of healthcare for children. Her humble beginnings were as a general practitioner in Amsterdam and her special interest was in pediatrics. It was not until after a four month visit to the Kinderspital in Zurich, which spurred her interest further and led her to establish her own paediatric reception. In 1907, Cornelia Catharina de Lange was appointed physician to Emma Kinderziekenhuis. It was there that she focused on her initiatives and eventually established a new infants ward.

Cornelia de Lange was appointed to the chair of paediatrics when the previous chairperson vacated the position in 1927. She was seen as the natural choice as successor and held tenure for 11 years, but stepped down in 1938. During her time served, she was displeased that paediatrics was not given enough focus in the medical community. She felt that medical students were also not given the necessary training and knowledge to further the progress of paediatrics. Indignant at this, she returned to Emma Kinderziekenhuis where she stayed till her death in 1950, at the age of 79.

Cornelia de Lange was notable in the significant contributions she made in paediatric neurology. She actively educated herself in pathological and histological studies and at the same time, she is also a published author of several books and some 250 medical papers. Her books were both non-medical and scientific specialist books that dealt with subjects like hygiene, childcare and nutrition. From 1943 to 1946, a total of 61 of her clinical lectures were published in a three part series, titled Zieke kinderen.

As a medical mentor and teacher, Cornelia de Lange has been known to influence her students to take an interest in paediatrics as their chosen career. Her love for paediatrics can be seen from her interest in all aspects of childhood, illness and health. She cared not only for children but also for the needs of mothers. This made her popular among the Dutch mothers. As a result of her warm and caring nature and nurturing attitude, Cornelia de Lange was also physician to the Beth-Palet hospital for unwed mothers for 33 years.