Biographical and Bibliographical Notes
Jan Evangelista Purkinje was born on 17 December 1787 in the town of Libochovice in the north of Bohemia and died on 28 July 1868 in Prague. He was the first son of Josef Purkinje, who served as economic supervisor of the holdings of the family Dietrichstein, and Rosalie, born Safranek. He had a happy childhood until 1793, when his father died suddenly. This profoundly affected the economic status of the family, and Jan's opportunity to acquire higher education was endangered (see Kotek and Niklicek, 1987).
Jan received the foundations of general education in the Czech primary school of his birthplace. The inquisitive child widened his horizons by reading Comenius' Orbis Pictus (The World in Pictures). The local chaplain was impressed by the child's intelligence and introduced him to Latin. He also taught him the Greek alphabet and spoke with him about astronomy. In the school Jan was introduced to music, both vocal and instrumental. He sang well and learned to play violin. As it turned out, these skills, especially singing, were of critical importance for the continuation of his education.
In the spring of 1798, with the help of his mother's friends, Jan was accepted as a member of the church choir in Mikulov, in southern Moravia. This enabled him