Plütschau, Heinrich (1677-1752)

Pioneer missionary of the Tranquebar mission

Co-worker with the pietist Lutheran mission pioneer Bartolomäus Ziegenbalg, Plütschau was overshadowed by the latter to the extent that his year of death has wrongly been stated as 1746. A native of Wesenberg, Mecklenburg, he was educated at Berlin and Halle, was selected for the Tranquebar mission, and arrived there in 1706. Six years older than Ziegenbalg and not nearly so brilliant a student, he was “cut out to be an admirable follower but not a leader” (Stephen Neill). According to the original plan, Ziegenbalg was to concentrate on the Portuguese language, the lingua franca on the Coromandel coast, and Plütschau on Tamil. But for unkown reasons the arrangement was soon reversed, probably to the advantage of the mission, although Plütschau later started a Tamil language study group at Halle. In any case, Plütschau assumed his share of responsibility for the growing Tamil church until he was sent home in 1711 to defend the mission against critics in Europe, including some in the royal court at Copenhagen. In 1714 he was called to a pastorate at Beidenfleth, Holstein, Germany. This was done with the concurrence of August H. Francke, who appreciated Plütschau’s faith and loyalty but did not think him qualified to become director of a proposed mission seminary at Copenhagen.

Hans-Werner Genischen, “Plütschau, Heinrich,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 540-41.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Neill, Stephen. A History of Christianity in India, 1707-1858. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Lehmann, Arno. It Began at Tranquebar: The Story of the Tranquebar Mission and the Beginnings of Protestant Christianity in India : Published to Celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Landing of the First Protestant Missionaries at Tranquebar in 1706. [Madras]: Christian Literature Society on behalf of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India, 1956.