Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Ulrich Jasper Seetzen

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SEETZEN, Ulrich Jasper (17671811), one of the most distinguished of modern travellers in the East, was born the son of a yeoman, in the little lordship of Jever in German Frisia, on 30th January 1767. His father, who was a man of substance, sent him to the university of Göttingen, where he graduated in medicine. His chief interests, however, were in natural history and technology; he wrote a number of papers on both these subjects which gained him some reputation, and had both in view in a series of journeys which he made from time to time through various parts of Holland and Germany. He also engaged practically in various small manufactures, and in 1802 obtained a Government post in Jever. In 1801, however, the interest which he had long felt in geographical exploration had culminated in a resolution to travel by Constantinople to Syria and Arabia, and then, when familiarized with Mohammedan ways, to try to penetrate into Central Africa. He relied mainly on his own resources, but received a small subvention from Gotha, where also he learned from Zach to make astronomical observations. In the summer of 1802 he started down the Danube with a companion Jacobsen, who broke down at Smyrna a year later. His journey was by Constantinople, where he stayed six months, thence through Asia Minor to Smyrna, then again through the heart of Asia Minor to Aleppo, where he remained from November 1803 to April 1805, and made himself sufficiently at home with Arabic speech and ways to travel as a native and without an interpreter. Now began the part of his travels of which a full journal has been published (April 1805 to March 1809), a series of most instructive journeys in eastern and western Palestine and the wilderness of Sinai, and so on to Cairo and the Fayyum. His chief exploit was a tour round the Dead Sea, which he made without a companion and in the disguise of a beggar. From Egypt he went by sea to Jeddah and reached Mecca as a pilgrim in October 1809. In Arabia he made extensive journeys, ranging from Medina to Lahak and returning to Mocha, from which place his last letters to Europe were written in November 1810. In September of the following year he left Mocha with the hope of reaching Muscat, and was found dead two days later, having, it is believed, been poisoned by the command of the imam of Sana’a. For the parts of Seetzen’s journeys not covered by the published journal (Reisen, ed. Kruse, 4 vols., Berlin, 1854) the only printed records are a series of letters and papers in Zach’s Monatliche Correspondenz and Hammer’s Fundgruben. Many papers and collections were lost through his death or never reached Europe. The collections that were saved form the Oriental museum and the chief part of the Oriental MSS. of the ducal library in Gotha.