Frans Hemerijckx


Portrait of Frans HemerijckxFrans Hemerijckx (1902-1969) was a Belgian doctor, specializing in tropical medicine. In 1929 he went to the Belgian Congo, convinced that he would conquer leprosy.


At that time, a new treatment had just been developed. This new technique enabled Hemerijckx to modify his working methods accordingly, and to organise his own working rounds, caring for his patients. Leprosy patients were not to be confined anymore. He built a leprosarium, where patients could live with their families. From now on, they could take part in family life during the whole of their treatment.


During the Second World War he founded Dikungu, the second village for people affected by leprosy in the Belgian Congo. He began to conduct regular tours of the area dispensing medical care where needed so that people affected by leprosy could remain with their families.


In 1954, while taking a respite in Belgium, King Leopold III invited Hemerijckx to the palace. The Belgian Leprosy Centre had just opened its doors in India and they were looking for somebody specialised in leprosy. He packed his cases and left at once.


Book cover 'Spreekuur onder een boom'With the cooperation of Dr Claire Vellut and nurses Simone Liageois and Haiane Berg, Hemerijckx set up a centre specialising in leprosy in Polambakkam, India. The personnel travelled from village to village and pitched their tents under the trees, caring for their patients on the spot, advising them on treatment and disease prevention.


The "clinic under the trees" of Polambakkam became a pilot project. All over India, other people took similar initiatives.


His work inspired people in Belgium to donate money to help care for people affected by leprosy and led to the creation of Damien Foundation Belgium in 1964.


At 63 years of age, Hemerijckx returned to Belgium. He was thereupon appointed medical consultant with the Damien Foundation and helped the Foundation to progress. After that, he returned to the Congo and to India, where he took part in numerous congresses where he did not cease to plead the cause of fighting leprosy more efficiently.


Hemerijckx acted as a consultant for the World health Organization on many occasions. As the most respected leprosy doctor of his time he conducted study visits and wrote official WHO reports. Among those a series called Leprosy problem in India, a series of reports of study visits to Tripura (10-13 February 1961), Manipur (13-17 February 1961), Assam (17 February - 31 March 1961), West Bengal (4-9 February 1961 and 4-17 March 1961), Gujerat (8-15 April 1961) and Nagpur (1-2 May 1961).


The Main-Belt asteroid 9615 (1993 BX13), discovered on 23 January 1993 by E.W. Elst at the European Southern Observatory, is named Hemerijckx to commemorate his work.



Stamp catalogue


Belgium                               13 September 1975









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last revised: 1 March 2010