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POLAK, JAKOB EDUARD:

Austrian physician; born 1818 at Gross-Morzin, Bohemia; died Oct. 7, 1891; studied at Prague and Vienna (M.D.). About 1851, when an envoy of the Persian government went to Vienna to engage teachers for the military school at Teheran, then about to be organized, Polak presented himself as a candidate. He arrived in the Persian capital in 1851, much impaired in health by the long voyage; and, pending the organization of the school, studied the language of the country.

In spite of the many obstacles which he encountered—particularly the defective state of medical science, which was not then taught in class, and the Islamic prohibition against the dissection of bodies—Polak soon achieved a reputation in Persia, and enjoyed the especial confidence of Shah Nasir-ed-Din. At first he lectured in French, with the aid of an interpreter; but after a year he was able to lecture in Persian, and later published in Persian a work on anatomy. He compiled also a medical dictionary in Persian, Arabic, and Latin, in order to provide a system of terminology. Finally he founded a state surgical clinic containing sixty beds. A serious illness in 1855 obliged him to give up his professional work; but he continued his literary activity.

As physician to the shah, Polak occupied a high position. About 1861 he returned to Vienna, and whenever the shah visited Austria Polak greeted him at the frontier. His "Persien, das Land und Seine Bewohner; Ethnograpische Schilderungen," appeared at Leipsic in 1865.

Bibliography:
  • Drasche, in Neue Freie Presse, Oct. 14, 1891.
S. E. J.
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