Jan Pieter Heije (1809-1876)

On 1 March 1809 the doctor and songwriter Jan Pieter Heije was born in this house, His father was a German surgeon and barber. Thanks to a windfall he was able to study medicine and obtain his doctorate at Leiden University. Jan Pieter Heije then settled as a general practitioner in the town of his birth: first residing on the Reguliersgracht and later on the Prinsengracht. During the 1832 cholera epidemic he had seen with his own eyes the miserable living conditions of the Amsterdam poor, and following this he was one of the first doctors to stress the importance of good housing, hygiene, physical exercise and limited alcohol consumption to good health.

Jan Pieter Heije was highly active in cultural, social and medical societies, such as the Dutch Medical Association Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Geneeskunst and the Dutch association for public welfare Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen. With the same enthusiasm Heije threw himself into writing the lyrics for popular songs and children’s songs. His verses were put to music by composers like J.J. Viotta and sung in schools and at home. His most famous song can still be heard in the Netherlands every year: ‘Zie de maan schijnt door de bomen’ (See the moon shine through the trees), a popular St. Nicholas song. Jan Pieter Heije died on 24 February 1876.


Image: City Archive Amsterdam